Though this be madness... Hamlet to be given thriller twist

  • @MrNickClark

The author of the bestselling thriller novel Gone Girl is to retell the story of Hamlet, saying she had “long been fascinated” by the play’s themes of murder, betrayal and revenge.

Gillian Flynn, whose novel has been made into a film starring Ben Affleck, joins authors including Margaret Atwood and Jo Nesbo who are writing their own Shakespeare “cover versions” to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death in 2016.

Flynn, a former journalist with Entertainment Weekly, will write a novel based on the themes of the dark psychological tragedy for the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

She said: “Hamlet has long been a fascination of mine: murder, betrayal, revenge, deceit, madness – all of my favourite things.

“Add to that some of Shakespeare’s most intriguing, curious characters, from the titular brooding prince to rueful Ophelia, and what slightly cheeky writer wouldn’t be tempted to reimagine it?”

Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, chose to tackle The Tempest, while Scandinavian thriller writer Nesbo is to take on Macbeth.

Tracy Chevalier, the author of bestselling novel Girl with a Pearl Earring is to tackle Othello, calling it an “irresistible opportunity”.

Jeanette Winterson, who wrote Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, chose The Winter’s Tale. She said she had worked with the play “in many disguises for many years. This is a brilliant opportunity to work with it in its own right. And I love cover versions.”

Another author who has been commissioned for the series is Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler, who will take on The Taming of the Shrew.

She said the works would be “true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature”.

Another Booker winner Howard Jacobson, who has chosen to retell The Merchant of Venice, said: “Only a fool would think he had anything to add to Shakespeare. But Shakespeare probably never met a Jew, the Holocaust had not yet happened, and anti-Semitism didn’t have a name.

“Can one tell the same story today, when every reference carries a different charge? That’s the challenge. I quake before it.”

Gone Girl was Flynn’s third book after Sharp Objects and Dark Places, and has sold nearly 6.5 million copies around the world. It topped the Sunday Times bestseller list for 26 consecutive weeks. The film, which also stars Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris, will be released in October. Flynn wrote the script.