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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ah, There's the Rub

Shakespeare has never been my strong suit. Oh, I studied his more popular "classic" tragedies and comedies in high school and college—and got the good grades—but he was never a favorite playwright of mine. I don't sit up at night pining to read his works, preferring his basic themes to be rehashed in more modern literature and cinema. If maybe that makes me less of a scholar, then, as the Bard would say, "So be it!"

That being said...

Once you realize the name of its main protagonist, “Thelma”, is the anagram of “Hamlet”, the first puzzle piece is in place of Hunting for Sparrows **, an intricately involved psychological thriller by Beatrice Gerard set in the über-rich, elite society of the modern corporate world. Following the plot lines of Shakespeare’s tragedy, the author renames and switches genders of four characters and sets their story in present-day West Palm Beach.

The Bard’s tales have been rehashed and often tritely retold many times over the centuries. However, Beatrice Gerard—nom de plume of a well-known British Literature professor and fiction author—brings a fresher, more diabolical approach to this tale of greed and lust that comprises “the very basic life staples. Violence, corruption…deaths, betrayals, [and] lies,” as Lauren—Horatio’s’ female counterpart—recaps just before this novel’s surprise ending, which gives a whole new, sharp edge to the oft-told tale.

I didn’t realize Hunting for Sparrows was a present-day account of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, until after reading the vaguely familiar first half, bogged down by outré, often stilted orations and prognostications by Thelma to Cindy, who shares a “dire” secret that is obvious to the Shakespeare-savvy reader. (Hint: Ophelia’s gender is not changed.). It was only until Lance recalls Polonius’ famous advice speech to his son, Laertes—and figuring out the anagram—did I have the “aha” moment: this is Hamlet retold with a twist. While Gerard is a decent writer—I reluctantly conclude—some of her phraseology is a bit overplayed, especially when juxtaposing arcane Shakespearean euphemisms into 21st Century jargon. The dialogue flows as if reading a script, but some of it seems forced, until the exciting denouement which sweeps us away to the final, tragic almost all exeunt ending.

While I found “Oh, poor Georgina!” (Alas, poor Yorick!”), when Thelma finds a childhood maid’s skull, and “Good night, sweet princess” scenes, as well as the two secondary lawyer-henchmen characters, Rosen (Rosencrantz) and Katz Guildenstern), overly trite and stilted, I found this self-published (March 2012) novel to be an overall satisfying read; almost as satisfying as a well-staged production of the original play. Missing, though, was Thelma’s mother’s ghost—or was she? The ending—atypical William Shakespeare, typical Beatrice Gerard—is an “I gotcha!” moment; one not to be missed by both general fiction as well as scholarly Shakespearean readers.

In Hunting for Sparrows , something once rotten in the bygone days of the State of Denmark has survived to span the ages, corrupting and sullying the corporate-America greedy elite of West Palm Beach—easily anyplace—where one continually asks, “Who really is the hawk? Who really are the sparrows?”

** © 2012 Beatrice Gerard. 364-pgs; ppbk. Self-published through CreateSpace.
12:53 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,