Hamlet is one of the most tragic figures in literature: His
father's ghost haunts him; his mother marries his uncle before the
grave is cold; his childhood friends betray him; the love of his
life kills herself; and he is poisoned by his best friend's sword.
Add to these unfortunate turns of events his tendency towards
self-doubt, and it is difficult to imagine a more tragic or
Enter Shea Hickson, the first-person narrator of IT'S WHAT HE
WOULD'VE WANTED. Shea is having a bad time: The love of his life
left him for his younger, more successful, brother; a one-night
stand makes him a father; he's neck-deep in an organization that
terrorizes the media and celebrities; and, his father has just
committed suicide. Add to this Shea's lack of ambition, and the
shadowy figure of a modern-day Hamlet emerges.
Shea's twisted Hamlet-like tale begins with the unexpected death of
his father, a BBC weatherman. The suicide startles Shea into a
single-minded pursuit to finally, if belatedly, understand the man
who gave him life. The ghost, in Shea's case, haunts him in the
form of his father's diaries. Deciphering the diaries becomes
Shea's purpose in life; he, like Hamlet, is bent on avenging his
Pursuit of the people and events memorialized in the diaries takes
Shea across the water to Australia. There he meets Robert Townsend,
a beneficiary of his father's will. It seems that, like father like
son, Robert is the result of a disastrous one-night stand.
Absurdly, the illegitimate brother bears a striking resemblance to
Shea and shares his birthday. As Shea remarks, "he was what I would
have looked like if I'd taken better care of myself." Ironically,
this half-Doppelgänger is to Shea what Fortinbras is to
Hamlet: a man of action and success.
Absurdity is heavy in IT'S WHAT HE WOULD'VE WANTED. Sean Hughes is
a well-known Irish comic in England, which should warn readers that
the humor is dark, subtle and ironic. Hughes even mocks his own
creation's paralyzing overanalyzing by introducing Gabrielle, a