Monday, February 1, 2021

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell


Hardback: 372 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Tinder Press, Headline Publishing Group 2020.

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.

Favourite Quote: “I find,' he says, his voice still muffled, 'that I am constantly wondering where he is. Where he has gone. It is like a wheel ceaselessly turning at the back of my mind. Whatever I am doing, wherever I am, I am thinking: Where is he, where is he? He can't have just vanished. He must be somewhere. All I have to do is find him. I look for him everywhere, in every street, in every crowd, in every audience. That's what I am doing, when I look out at them all: I try to find him, or a version of him.”

Review Quote: A rich imagining of the lives of Shakespeare's family enchants... O'Farrell's remarkable novel bursts with life ― Sunday Telegraph

Literary Awards:  Women's Prize for Fiction (2020)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2020)Waterstones Book of the Year (2020)

My Opinion:  I have been a fan of Maggie O'Farrell's writing for over twenty years! Beautifully descriptive literary prose and cleverly woven storylines that have never disappointed me as a reader.

'Hamnet' the long awaited latest novel was well worth waiting for, it is over seven years since she published her last work of fiction.

A poignant story about William Shakespeare's young family living in Stratford. It feels even more heart rendering to read this novel at the moment as it is also set in the time of pandemic! 

I particularly enjoyed O'Farrell's clever description of how the plague reached English soil via a flea. A great ploy.

The narrative feels realistic, even if it is fiction based on fact and is an emotive portrayal of family life of the times. Alternating between Agnes's youth, courtship by Shakespeare and 1596, when tragedy strikes and continuing through to the end of he century when Hamlet was first performed.

This is definitely a novel to be recommended to all lovers of historical fiction based on a real story. Plus of course fans of Maggie O'Farrell as in my opinion it is a great five star read.

Precis Courtesy of Goodreads:

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.

Author Profile

Maggie O'Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I AM, I AM, I AM, and eight novels: AFTER YOU'D GONE, MY LOVER'S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and HAMNET. She lives in Edinburgh.

Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile   Maggie O'Farrell - Facebook  Amazon Author Profile

Official Author Website