352 pages

English language

Published Aug. 28, 2020 by Headline Publishing Group.

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5 stars (9 reviews)

Drawing on Maggie O'Farrell's long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare's most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

Award-winning author Maggie O'Farrell's new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.

1 edition

quiet accumulation of grief and wonder

5 stars

Fucking hell. I put this off for years because I wasn’t sure I was ready for its sustained grief (and because as a one-time Shakespeare professor, I usually stay away from fiction about him). The grief is hard and circles everything. It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful and I’m glad I read it and I’ll be thinking about it for a long while.

Beautiful prose about interesting characters

5 stars

Filled with dazzling prose but not in the sense that you need a dictionary, except to understand 16th century fashion. I am fascinated by the idea that the premise here is that an author can surprise and delight in plain English about that language’s most famous writer.

Review of 'Hamnet' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

In 1596, young Judith comes down with a fever and lumps around her neck. Her twin brother Hamnet goes for help, but no one will come. Their mother Agnes is tending her bees, and their father is away in London. In a few short days, Hamnet will be dead.

I needed to read a winner of the Women’s Prize for Popsugar and I saw so many people praising Hamnet last year that I thought this would do. Honestly, if I hadn’t had needed it for Popsugar I would have not carried on past the first few chapters. Why is it necessary to tell me what happens at the start? This is why me and Literature don’t get along. However, I persevered and somewhere long the way I started to like it.

Someone told me the other day it wasn’t a plague book, but a good portion of the book is …

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