Audrey recommends: Enter the Body by Joy McCullough
Genre: Novel in verse
Reading Level: Adult
Summary: All the women who die in Shakespeare tragedies meet under the stage trapdoor to discuss the parallels between their lives, and how they might choose to rewrite their stories.
Audrey says: The story focuses on Juliet, Ophelia, and Cordelia, three extremely different women who all died for the love of the men in their lives. Fiery Juliet is angry that people interpreted her hope for peace as youthful stupidity. Quiet, passive Ophelia mourns the mother that was never even mentioned in her play. Stoic Cordelia is resigned to her fate and derides anyone who believes otherwise.
I can’t resist a hybrid form, so the half-script, half-poetry format appealed to me. I immediately clocked their distinct poetic styles; for instance, Cordelia almost always writes in carefully measured iambic pentameter, afraid to deviate from the norm, while Juliet speaks in impulsive fragments.
I don’t consider this a remix or adaptation of Shakespeare’s work, but rather a commentary. It reads like a compelling essay, using the voices of the Bard’s doomed heroines to express how they have been used as plot devices and objects whose inner lives remain unknown to the reader. By staging this novel as a conversation rather than a manifesto, it’s clear that many different interpretations can exist at the same time, and all are correct.