Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell

Published by: Tinder Press
Pages: 372
Date released: 31/03/2020
Date read: 11/05/2020

Warwickshire in the 1580’s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settled 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.

After reading Maggie O’Farrell’s previous book I am, I am, I am, I was on the hunt for more of her writing. As soon as I heard about Hamnet, I knew I needed to read it, counting the days to publication, managing to get my hands on a signed first edition copy.

As a lover of Shakespeare, I was blown away by this book. It was so beautiful, full of love and pain and sensitivity. You can tell how much Maggie admires Shakespeare. Most fans of the bard will know a little of his life. That he had a son who died very young, and who inspired one of his best works. So what more could this book provide the reader? Only, everything! It doesn’t matter if you know the story of Hamnet or not, it doesn’t ruin the story for you if you do, and you don’t miss out on anything if you don’t.

Not only is the storyline wonderful, Maggie manages to write it in such a lyrical way that the book becomes more about being a joy to read. She describes cats as having “faces like pansies”; honey flowing “slow as sap…scented with the sharp tang of thyme and the floral sweetness of lavender”; and the plums as “red-gold jackets near to bursting with sweetness.” Through this narrative, she has presented a book that allows you to hear the conversations, taste the food, and feel everything the characters feel.

She has not just written a book about William and Agnes Shakespeare (also known as Anne Hathaway) or about Hamlet. She has written a book about love and relationships, hardships and betrayal, illness and death. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Not just lovers of Shakespeare, but to anyone who reads. It is a book, I feel, will stay with me forever.

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