Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood


By Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Hogarth
ISBN13: 9780804141291
Pages: 301
Genre: Fiction/Retellings

Goodreads Blurb:

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?


Have you ever read a book that you knew was good, but you just could not find enough personal appreciation in it? This is where my dilemma lies with Hag-Seed. So I am proceeding with caution. My first encounter with Atwood was The Handmaid’s Tale. A familiar title to many. Unfortunately, my experience was similar and this was a second-chance sort of read. I like the author’s writing, but I want to love it. So what happened?


This is a round-a-bout re-imaging of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. That was the first issue. I am not a fan of The Tempest. I am sure that will solicit a few groans or remarks, but it is honesty. It seems like the sort of work I could appreciate,  but it truly does little for me. In fact, after I completed Hag-Seed, I made a point of rereading The Tempest to see if it could possibly solicit some new feelings or uncover this deeper appreciation I seek. It did not.

So why did I chose Hag-Seed? As mentioned above, I want to give this author a real chance. And retelling. It is that simple. Retellings provide opportunity for new life. I cannot pass them up, even when I may not be a fan of the original story.

This rebirth, if you will, tells the story through a pitiful lad by the name of Felix who has lost his love, his daughter, and now his career. He makes the decision to exile himself to a small shack in rural Ontario and lives out his days accompanied by his daughter’s haunting memory to the extent he is semi delusional, but also very aware of this fact. He eventually takes a position at a correctional facility, where he heads up the Literacy Through Theatre program. He begins directing Shakespeare that is casted with inmates as part of a rehabilitation program.

When Felix learns that those responsible for the loss of his career and cancellation of his vision of The Tempest will be attending his next presentation at Burgess Correctional Institute, he has another vision in mind. Revenge. What unfolds is a curious but not fulling engrossing set of events. They proceed over a very large span of time that feels drawn out and without climax. The pace is steady, never picking up to allow for any sort of real excitement. It felt like a very streamlined read, with no real emotional value.


We have our main character Felix and his companion, his deceased and now imaginary daughter Miranda. Personally, I shared no connection with Felix. Given his loss and back story, I was hoping to acquire some emotional investment or even a few pangs of shared grief. It just never happened. I did not dislike him, nor did I like him. Nothing extraordinary was happening here. He was credible enough, but in a dull sense. This is the type of man who no one notices at the party. His entire existence felt sad, but not sad enough to truly engage me or solicit proper emotion.

Miranda is a fictional memory at this point. When he is home, he lives with what he believes she would have grown to become. He is aware this is unhealthy, but continues to take a small amount of solace in her presence. She really is not constructed to contribute to the story aside from providing insight that Felix has not recovered from her death.

The inmates offered small amounts of needed humor throughout the story. Perhaps learning their very brief history when discovering their chosen screen names was one of the more enjoyable moments for me within Hag-Seed. Their contribution to the story felt very limited. I was hoping they would be utilized to provide a much-needed breath of life to a story that was starting to feel stale.

World Building

I contemplated on how I would approach this aspect of the book. Atwood is capable of clearly depicting each setting. There is no lack of detail within her writing, and I did not struggle to understand and visualize the environment. It was drab, but drab can be expected given the circumstances. Felix chose to isolate himself, and then finds redemption within the confines of prison walls. Everything is very lackluster because that is the setting.

So here is where I would normally spend a minute explaining to you how the real depth and world building was developed through Felix’s work. I would spend several sentences elaborating on the fact that the play or production gave great contribution to the overall setting of our story. It did not.


Perhaps it was the author’s writing alone that gave me hope. Her almost poetic and somehow comforting words urged me forward. There is something in her work that conveys a real talent. I can feel it and even understand why others love it. But it never fully connects with me. This is difficult to explain. It is like trying to enjoy your favorite food when you have a horrible cold. You know it is good, but you simply cannot taste it.


I was hoping this review would not sound abrasive. I have respect for this author and wanted to fully connect this time, but I just didn’t. I am severing all ties and accepting that some things are not meant to be. I was admittedly bored and unable to find what I was looking for with this one. I am not sure who I could possibly recommend this to. I know there is an audience. The reviews and ratings prove this. I just am not part of it, so I can’t relate.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books. This is my honest and unbiased review.

⭐ ⭐

Purchase Hag-Seed

About The Author

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.


72 thoughts on “Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

  1. I totally get what you mean. Brilliant writing doesn’t always translate into characters and a plot we connect with. The same thing happened to me with Rosamund Hodge’s Crimson Bound. The writing and imagery were gorgeous, but it never got caring enough about what happened to stick with the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Margaret Atwood but I often find my connection to her books are really hit and miss. I tend to find that if I read them with a touch of analysis in terms of it’s place in literature or politics or history and what it means, etc. then I enjoy them more but simply reading them for enjoyment I usually find pretty difficult. I tend to be disconnected.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I even had the same issue with The Handmaid’s Tale if I’m being honest! I loved the novel but not in a personally connected way, more as though if I were reading an essay.

        The Edible Woman is a nice quick read that I found a bit more intriguing. I think it’s one of her more “out there” concepts.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I also struggled with The Handmaid’s Tale. It was a wonderful concept that was sitting right with me. I am glad it isn’t just me. She seems to have a good following though, so it just isn’t my cup of tea I suppose. Reading is such a personalized experience 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Danielle. I’ve not read The Handmaid’s Tale or The Tempest… and I thought I would be interested in those as well as this book, but now I’m not so sure. I may still give it a try, just not rush to read it, ya know?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! Nice analogy with eating food while having a cold; it seems to put the finger right on the problem. This comes to show how important it is to feel attached, in any way possible, with the characters. Otherwise… welp. This happens. 😛

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really appreciate your honestly, Danielle. I find that the “impressive” authors are typically the hardest for me to connect with. I personally attribute this to never really learning how to analyze texts. I want to be engaged and absorbed. I found that I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale the first time I tried reading it. A few years later I listened to the audiobook and I adored it. Perhaps Atwood is like Shakespeare to me? I must listen to it performed to appreciate it. How apropos in this situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you have summed it up very well. I was desperately wanting to be engaged. I haven’t been in the habit of reading to analyze for some time. I hope you see all of my comments! I still get weird errors, on my page and yours. It is like the blogisphere is blocking us!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Aww, that’s a shame. I always feel so sad when that happens – I start out every book with that lovely feeling of anticipation and it’s so disappointing if you don’t love it – but it happens! One of my other blogger friends found it difficult to connect with this book so your review definitely struck a chord.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love your honest review… I have also seen Atwood’s books being hugely appreciated and there’s one (a title I can’t remember at the moment) that sparked my interest due to the plot itself but for Hag-Seed, to be honest, even the plot doesn’t really pull me in… I haven’t ever read Atwood but I should try her works out just to see how I get along… Interesting, none the less!
    I admit, I haven’t read The Tempest either so the retelling bit would totally go over my head 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ❤ I should probably appreciate The Tempest more than I do being Shakespeare but I don’t. The Handmaid’s Tale has a very interesting concept happening, so maybe you could try that story. Maybe you would enjoy it. For me, I am just settling with the fact that I don’t mix well with this author.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A respectable & honest review Danielle, well done! Honesty is always appreciated. I’ve had Margaret Atwood on my list of authors to check out but haven’t quite found a starting point. Seems like you either love or hate this author work. I do not enjoy giving bad reviews so I try to find some positive along with the negative. Loved how you formatted your review! 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Lilly! I was struggle with this because I believe in giving the positive with the negative also, and I felt like I just couldn’t find enough good to say. It was tough. I agree though, this author does seem to be a love or hate sort of relationship.. well maybe dislike. I don’t hate her work, but it doesn’t work for me 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. She seems to have somengreat concepts and a nice following. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted it to be, it has been there for me. I would love to say that maybe next time. To be honest though, two strikes is probably it. I won’t continue reading someone’s work that doesn’t agree with me. Seems unfair to either of us 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Abfab review, Danielle! You know I appreciate your honesty. I was torn about requesting an ARC of this book so many times and kept telling myself I wouldn’t like it. Your review confirms I would’ve detested this book. So agree with you on The Tempest. It’s definitely not one of his best. I love a good retelling or books inspired by other famous works, but take The Tempest and turn it into a book and that doesn’t exactly scream I need to read this, right? I’m so glad you saved me what could’ve been a very painful rant to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jill 😊 I was hoping to find something with this one that was not there for me. There are a lot of positive reviews, and again, I think her writing is solid. I am kindnof bummed I do not connect with her work to be honest. Maybe it is that whole hype factor? I want to appreciate it because so many do? Oh well. Yeah, I definitely do not recommend this for you 😂 It would be a rant for sure. Although, a good one I have no doubt 😉


    1. I feel like I keep repeating myself in my comments because I can really only say that I wanted to connect with her work and after two attempts, I am accepting I do not. But some readers truly dom i hope you have a much better experience 😊


  10. Loved reading this honest review. Some authors have great writing but it doesn’t deliver to the world, plot, and characters. I loved your analogy about food, like I completely understand where you’re coming from. Some books aren’t meant to be for certain readers. I don’t really care for Shakespeare so I know for a fact that I wouldn’t read this book. I hope your next read is way better!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ❤😊 Everything you have said here sums it up! Reading Vassa now and loving it (many have not) so go figure haha. I am glad several people were able to get the food analogy because I was fumbling on how to explain it any better. Hope you are reading something great!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sorry you ended up not enjoying this one. It sucks when the author’s writing is fantastic but everything else just isn’t there. I’ve actually never read The Tempest and from your review and the synopsis for this I don’t think I would enjoy it or a retelling. Either way, great review! 💕😊

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I totally get your view. A good writing does not always mean a connection to the story or the characters. It looks like both her stories fell flat for you. A Handmaid’s Tale is on my 2017 reading list, I’ve heard so much about the author that I haven’t mustered the courage to pick it up yet! It’s just so sad when the writing is brilliant but not supported by what makes a book good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you enjoy Handmaid’s Tale. There is a great concept with strong message occurring within the book. Her writing is good, but something about the overall style or execution is not meant to be with me. I think someone mentioned earlier that her work is meant to be digested and dissected or studied so to speak. Maybe so. I am not in that mindframe with reading at the moment. If I miraculously get this one after a few days, I will let you know 😂😉


  13. Atwood is one of those authors I think. I really enjoyed this book, as I have the majority of hers, but I think the way you describe her writing and how you aren’t connecting with it would be the same for a lot of people. A really honest review and very fair I think. thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve seen a lot about this book recently and had been intrigued enough to add it to my mental to-read list….but I’m really glad to have read your honest review! It’s difficult when the writing is good but the story just isn’t interesting. I think I’ll put it on the back burner for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great review. PErfectly explains why you had issues with the book. I’d been curious about it, but I have a hit or miss experience with Atwood, and had already been pretty sure that this one wouldn’t be for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My first (and still only) experience with Atwood was an ARC of The Heart Goes Last, and I loathed it. I don’t tremember the specific reasons why I hated it, but I guess that might be an example that it didn’t leave an impression on me, for one. I do remember it being predictable and thinking how much I wanted to be finished reading it. That story was set partially in a prison, too. Heh. However, most of her fans ended up not liking The Heart Goes Last, so I was still contemplating reading A Handmaid’s Tale because I loved the original movie. After seeing all the great reviews of Hag-Seed I was kicking myself for not requesting it based on my experience with THGL, but this review has made me feel better about it. Ha ha. Thanks for “sharting” your review. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your review doesn’t sound abrasive at all. You’ve been respectful, acknowledging that Atwood is a talented writer and that it’s a talent that has attracted a legion of fans. It’s fine to not connect with a book or its characters, regardless of how popular it is among other readers. You’ve provided your honest, unbiased opinion which is what review writing is about! 🙂 Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand your concern, though. The book I reviewed the other day was probably the worst I’d read in a long time, but I still wanted to name its good points and acknowledge the time that had gone into writing it. I think it’s all about finding a balance and being able to justify the criticism that you do have and that’s what you’re good at doing in your reviews 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve heard good things about the Hogarth Shakespeare retellings but haven’t read any yet. I don’t know that I’d start with The Tempest, either. I like The Tempest well enough, but it’s not my favorite play and, when you think about it, very little happens plot-wise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There definitely is not a lot happening plot wise, which probably didn’t help my experience. Unfortunately, after a few attemps I don’t think thisbauthor and I connect. But I am still willing to consider Hogarth Retellings again in the future 😊


  19. I loved A Handmaid’s Tale…and I also enjoyed The Robber Bride and Cat’s Tale, but I absolutely hated the MaddAddam trilogy. That’s just how it goes for me with this author. I couldn’t connect with the characters in that dystopian trilogy (Handmaid’s Tale was different; I could connect there).

    So…not adding this one to my list. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I am right in the middle of reading this now, and am really loving it – but for me, it’s all about her writing. She is just so damn good. (Although I heard her being interviewed once and she was a bit of twonk). But I need to agree with Laurel-Rain Snow, I didn’t like the dystopian stuff at all. I’m very impressed that you went back and read The Tempest, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I wish I could have connected with this so much more. Her writing will always hold my respect, but the story telling does not work for me.

      I am glad you are enjoying. I always enjoy trading thoughts with someone who has a different opinion or experience. I wish the writing were enough for me, but I just had expectations. I hope you continue to enjoy this ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I tried reading Margaret Atwood a few years ago my mom recommended The Robber Bride for me to try and I sort of had the same feeling it was really good writing but I jut couldn’t seem to get into it and I ended up putting it down. I suspect it’s one of those book that maybe it just has to be the right time for you to read. I have been told the best book of hers to start with is The handmaids tale, do yo think that is wise?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read The Handmaid’s Tale and it was ok for me, but I still did not connect like others. Although, I agree that it is a great concept so maybe it would be a good point.

      For me, I think we all just respond to different things, and her work doesn’t connect with me the way I had hoped. I hope you enjoy your next attempt though 🙂


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