31st March 202 Tinder Press
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.
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is the story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria: a kestrel and its mistress: and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
As a fan of Maggie O’Farrell I can proudly say I have read all of her books with the exception of one and that is on my shelf. So it was an absolute privilege to be sent an early copy of Hamnet, huge thanks to Georgina Moore at Midas PR.
Hamnet is an eloquently written piece of fiction, Hamnet and Judith are twins the, children of William Shakespeare and Agnes (Anne) Hathaway. Little is known about the private life of the famous playwright but O’Farrell has created an authentic story which captures the imagination of the reader and transforms them back to 16th century England.
The story is told in 2 distinct time frames – Agnes’ meeting of Shakespeare, their marriage and early family life is one part, while the other follows Hamnet as an eleven year old boy, suddenly struck ill and dying. Part two of the book is life post Hamnet and the creation of Hamlet. The loss of the boy is devastating and the pain of Agnes in particular is tangible. The times were hard and this was also well reflected in the book. The bubonic plague was feared and death of a child was not uncommon.
Maggie O’Farrell demonstrates once again that she can turn her hand to a range of genres, having dominated the contemporary fiction market, her incredible and original memoir I Am, I Am, I Am was hugely successful, beautifully written and moving read my review here. This time with Hamnet she has created a vivid offering on the short life of Hamnet including his parents courtship and marriage. This is an accessible read that I enjoyed, it left me compelled to learn more about the private life of the Shakespeare family and for me that is a true sign of successful historical fiction.
About the Author
Maggie O’Farrell is the author of eight novels. After You’d Gone, My Lover’s Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won the 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, This Must Be the Place and Hamnet. Her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am was a Sunday times No 1 bestseller. She lives in Edinburgh.