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The Dead Father's Club: 03/08/09

The Dead Father's Club by Matt Haig is written in diary form making it a very typical British young adult novel. All of these novels have a hook to set them apart; The Dead Fathers Club is a retelling of Hamlet.

To be Hamlet a story needs: a dead father, a lecherous uncle, a mother, and a depressed girl friend. Philip Noble, the eleven year old protagonist doesn't just have the icky fact that his uncle is now dating his mother, he also has the ghost of his father demanding revenge by his next birthday.

Fathers who are murdered, his dad's ghost explains, join the Dead Fathers Club. If their deaths are avenged before their next birthday they can move on to heaven. If not, they are forever doomed to suffer Terrors and stay ghosts forever. (p. 19) What Philip has to do is decide whether he wants to believe his father and take up the call for revenge or ignore him and let life go on regardless of whatever horrors might exist in the afterlife.

As The Dead Father's Club is a full length novel, and not a play, Philip has more time to think and it does give him longer moments of clarity over the Danish prince. His mother and uncle, also not constrained to the cliches of tragedy are more fully fleshed than the Bard's characters allowing more options in the narrative beyond the usual ending. That's not to say that everything ends rosily, there are unfortunate consequences to actions taken but I don't want to give anything away.

Like David Almond's The Savage, The Dead Fathers Club is written to reflect Philip's voice including a lack of sensible punctuation, strange capitilizations and words running together. It takes some getting used to before the story will start to flow. The familiarity of Hamlet makes the process easier.

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