Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell


Bookseller Review by Miriam

‘O’Farrell tenderly reimagines the relationship – courtship and marriage of Shakespeare and Agnes/Anne Hathaway. She is an enigmatic maternal figure… free spirited and intuitive. As the the beating heart of the family and central character of the novel, we see the love, passion and joy she feels as a wife and mother but also the pain when their 11year old twin son Hamnet dies of the plague. Shakespeare is seen in relation to the other family members – as a father, son, husband and brother. They find their way through their grief and Shakespeare seeks solace in his art which is ultimately shaped by it. The evocative and earthy details of 16th century everyday domestic life of the obscure and the famous combine vividly, with ‘Shakespearean themes’ woven in. Timelines shift and the ‘frail veil’ between life and death packs an emotional punch. Arresting and Unforgettable!’

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On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

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