The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski



Any number of writers has taken on Hamlet. Chap called Shakespeare gave it a try, as did another by the name of Tom Stoppard. Both play to packed houses to this day, even though most audience members know the ending by now. At first glance, David Wroblewski's version is not so much inspired by the Bard of Avon as by Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres: while Smiley moved King Lear to a farm in Iowa, Wroblewski re-stages Hamlet on a farm in Wisconsin. It is to Wroblewski's credit that a page or two into this epic book (it clocks in at 643), thoughts of Smiley and Shakespeare fade away. Our hero is the titular Edgar Sawtelle, a young boy rendered mute at birth. Luckily, the immediacy of Wroblewski's prose, and the clarity of his dialogue, speak eloquently enough for our Copperfield-like hero. Edgar finds peace in the company of dogs and in his love for his mother. His uncle, naturally called Claude, is another matter, however. He and Edgar's father fight - not least over a stray dog. It is not spoiling too much to reveal that Edgar's father dies. Oprah Winfrey loved Edgar Sawtelle. Don't let that put you off. I'm sure you will too.