Review: The Cake House by Latifah Salom

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Publication: March 3rd 2015
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 336 pages
Source: Birthday/Christmas Gift
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Retelling, Contemporary
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤

Hamlet retelling where Hamlet is a girl? Yes please!

The Cake House has been on my TBR pile for at least four years and was a surprisingly hard book for me to find. Not online, it’s easy enough to find on Amazon. But I was never able to find it at my library or at Indigo/Chapters which surprised me. Luckily I got it as a birthday/Christmas gift and made it one of my first reads of 2019 and it did not disappoint!

Rosaura Douglas’ father is dead. He shot himself after Rosaura’s mother left him for his business partner Claude, or at least that’s what her mother and Claude are saying. Rosaura isn’t too sure, especially when she starts seeing her father’s ghost and he implies that something else may have happened. But Rosaura has more problems to deal with now. One is her mother who is shockingly unsettled in her new life, her new stepbrother Alex who always seems to be hiding something, and her stepfather Claude whose job is mysterious and one the local police want to learn more about. On top of all that Rosaura is grieving and sorting through the complicated emotions she has with her father’s death and her new life as she tries to process what around her and in her head is real and what isn’t.

Salom’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is incredibly thought out and developed and I loved that she chose to tell it from the perspective of a young teenage girl. Not only do reader’s get to feel Rosaura’s grief as she struggles through her father’s death but also her own struggles as a teenager as she’s thrown into new situations and a new life she doesn’t understand. The younger perspective also turns the story of Hamlet into a coming-of-age novel as Rosaura grows and in my opinion makes it much easier for reader’s to relate and sympathize with her.

One of my favourite things about The Cake House was how Salom wrote Rosaura’s madness. There are definitely some of these scenes that readers will find strange and hard to understand, but they seemed to fit with what exactly Salom was doing. This isn’t the same antic disposition as Hamlet, it’s more modern, something that would seem mad or crazy nowadays.

I also loved finding the bits of Hamlet in Salom’s writing because unlike most literary retellings Salom’s isn’t a literal retelling of Shakespeare’s play. It definitely uses Hamlet as a framework and has many instances that are arguably adaptions of certain scenes in the play, but The Cake House is also its own unique story with its own mission away from Shakespeare’s, and that’s what makes it so remarkable.

The Cake House is easily one of my favourite Shakespeare retellings and one anyone who loves Hamlet should definitely read. It keeps the heart of the play while also managing to be something individual that makes it stand out from so many similar adaptions.

 

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