________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 4 . . . . October 20, 2000

Closer to Hamlet.

David Boyd.
Oakville, ON: Rubicon, forthcoming 2001.
77 min. VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 104.

Grades 8 - 12 / Ages 13 - 17.

Review by Joan Marshall.

*** /4

Reviewed from manuscript.


Yes, I can talk about it but I didn't really know what happened until they were carrying me off the stage. I kind of woke up then. I was so tired...I was...it was like pulling the plug in the bathtub...everything just drained right out of me and...and then all of this happens. I guess it's because of the pressure...I mean, people all think that because of all the media shit that I cracked up, right? My mom wouldn't let me see the newspapers but I saw some of the stuff on tv in the hospital and...well, they don' t even know me so...it pissed me off if you want the truth.
    I don't think I'm cracking up...Shakespeare said, 'My head is as full of quarrels as an egg is full of meat.'
    I felt exactly like that.
    I kind of still do...if you want the truth.
    How ... how do you know ... I mean, how can you tell if you're cracking up?
Take one brilliant stage prodigy, add one greedy uncle, one dead father, one weak, loving mother and one disabled younger sister. Bring to a boil in an atmosphere of progressively pressure filled stage performances and spooky interviews with the psychiatrist to produce a cool thriller with a neat twist at the end.
    David Boyd has effectively used the style he has employed previously in Looking for a Hero and Bottom Drawer. Boyd compiles a series of letters, transcripts, interviews, newspaper articles, playbills, psychiatric case notes and phone calls to tell the story of Kendall Twiner, a child prodigy accused of murdering his uncle. Dr. Margaret Cheung, the psychiatrist and John Healington, the consulting detective, return for strong performances as they try to determine what makes their young patient tick. Kendall's uncle, Claude, is rescued from caricature when we realize that we are seeing him through Kendall's eyes. Patrick, Kendall's "murdered" father, is the epitome of the eager parent of the gifted child. Kendall represents the child prodigy pushed to the brink of exhaustion.
    Effectively using the setting of a family run bookstore and the background of the Stratford Festival, Boyd has assembled a Canadian mystery/thriller that will attract older students who have an interest in Shakespeare or who have studied Hamlet in their English classes. It is a pleasure to see Shakespeare's glowing words blended seamlessly into a novel for young adults! In the modern day context of this novel, they eerily suggest child abuse, greed and murder "most foul." Who or what is "closer to Hamlet"? Is Kendall, the charming, talented teenager guilty of murder? Surely not. But we often underestimate gifted children, don't we?


Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Winnipeg, MB.

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ISSN 1201-9364