The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski (10 November — 16 November)

I put this book on hold at the library some very long time ago, after I heard an interview with the author on NPR and thought the book sounded decent. I finally got it last week, and was possibly over-excited to read it.

The premise of the book is a sort of updated version of Hamlet. Edgar Sawtelle is a mute 14-year-old who breeds dogs with his family in far northern Wisconsin. His uncle, Claude, comes back into the family after a long leave of absence, but sibling rivalry sort of explodes and Edgar’s father, Gar, sends Claude away. Soon enough, though, Gar ends up dead in the kennel and Claude starts moving in on his sister-in-law. Gar’s ghost tells Edgar that Claude is the murderer, but Edgar can’t tell anyone — not just because he can’t speak but because he’s pretty sure they won’t believe him.

More Hamlet happens — the Polonius character dies, Edgar goes off on an adventure, et cetera.

And I think that’s my problem with the book. I liked the beginning of the novel, wherein we learned about training dogs and Edgar’s relationship with his mother. I liked the part when Edgar runs away and has a great woodsy adventure with his dogs. But I didn’t like the parts where I said to myself, “Oh, look, Polonius is dead now! And hey, I thought Laertes was supposed to kill Hamlet!”

Ah, well. It doesn’t follow Hamlet to the letter (see Laertes comment), so there’s quite a bit of wondering how the plot will turn out, which is good. And those parts that I liked, I really did like. I just don’t think that the book as a whole really fit together well.

Definitely a good read if you’re a Hamlet scholar or dog enthusiast.

Rating: 6/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2008)

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