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4.30  ·  Rating details ·  87 ratings  ·  33 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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 31st 2020 by Tinder Press
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Average rating 4.30  · 
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 ·  87 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Roman Clodia
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: skim-read-to-end
I'm clearly in a minority here (again!) but I found this unengaging and flat. There's too much indirect speech and the whole story feels very distanced rather than immediate. O'Farrell talks in the foreword about how she's wanted to write this book for decades, and the result is that it feels laboured, weighted down with expectation that doesn't come to fruition for me.

I especially hated the portrayal of Agnes as one of those almost witchy 'wise women' who abound in historical fiction: fey,
Mary Beth Keane
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary. Already predicting this will be one of my favorites of 2020.
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Visit the locations of the story here

Im always wary of reading books where authors imagine the story behind a real event/character or rewrite a story told many times before. Will they spoil my imagined story or tell a story told so many times before? Well, my worries were unfounded with Hamnet as I was drawn in to the story of Shakespeares son. I loved Shakespeare at school but have only dipped in and out since. Ive been to Stratford a few times to see the house and this really helped me
Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Controversial opinion ahead: OFarrell does not have the writing chops to pull this off. Its overwrought and overwritten historical fiction. Shakespeare had a son named Hamnet who died four years before Shakespeare would write Hamlet. Both names, Hamnet and Hamlet, were completely interchangeable in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Such ripe material that is never fully realised in OFarrells hands. I dont want to tear it apart so wont go into all my issues with it and Id be fascinated to ...more
Caroline Middleton
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this emotive historical tale, OFarrell reconstructs the life and death of Shakespeares son, Hamnet. Four years after his son's passing, he would write one of his most famous plays: Hamlet.

Hamnet is a haunting gem of a book. OFarrell captures the experience of grief in an utterly beguiling way, each chapter revolving around the moments of Hamnets birth the courtship of his parents, the bloody confusion of his delivery and his eventual death. Its a heartbreaking fusion, told mostly through
Jeanine Cummins
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I dont know where Maggie OFarrell found the courage to take on such a daunting subject, but Im so glad she did. This book feels intimate and true and is absolutely beautiful. ...more
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You can hear my interview with Maggie on the Literary Salon podcast via Itunes etc--it was her first ever interview about the book! World premiere. It's an incredible book and I can't look at apples the same way since reading it--you'll get the joke when you've read that scene.

Hamnet is her first foray into deep historical fiction. Hamnet takes us back to a summer day in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1596. A young girl, Judith, takes to bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, is distraught and
Ruth Brookes
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Inspired by a fascinating historical footnote; the death of a playwrights son & his famous tragedy of the same name. Hamnet is told with OFarrells usual emotional acuity & filled with unspoken truths. This is an gorgeous novel, atmospheric, honest & grounded. A quiet, intimate tale about a marriage, the loss of a child & the transformative power of connection & grief. Beautiful. ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 rounded up

Hamnet tells the story of Shakespeare's son of the same name who died (most likely) of bubonic plague aged 11 in 1596. The narrative mostly follows Hamnet's mother, Agnes (Anne Hathaway - Agnes is thought to be her real name according to her father's will), and her life married to the bard.

Speaking as someone who a) doesn't read much historical fiction and, b) isn't a huge fan of it, I have to say that I found this an accessible and readable novel however it wasn't without its
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Maggie O'Farrell's "Hamnet" is as lovely a novel as you would hope it to be. Historical fiction is a new undertaking for her, and this novel is so artfully written beautifully expressed that I certainly hope it will not be her last.

Set in late 16th century Stratford, it is, of course, about the loss of Shakespeare's 11-year-old son Hamnet, and what that could have meant to the artist and his family. You will be surprised and moved.

Anne Hathaway--here called Agnes, as her father referred to her
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-or-blagged
Hamnet was Shakespeare's son, who tragically died at the age of 11. The coincidence of the name's similarity to one of his tragedies was not lost on Maggie O'Farrell and this was the inspiration for this wonderful novel. The names Hamnet and Hamlet were virtually interchangeable at the time and once you know that the idea that the death of his child is somehow connected to the play seems obvious. Although you don't need to know anything about either Shakespeare or his plays to read this - that's ...more
Caroline Barron
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review to follow, in Otago Daily Times newspaper.

Favorite quotes:

Every life has its kernel, its hub, its epicenter, from which everything flows out, to which everything returns. page 8

She sees how she, Agnes, must remain clam, steady, must make herself bigger, in a way, to keep the house on an even keel, not to allow it to be taken over by this darkness, to square up to it, to shield Susanna from it, to seal off her own cracks, not to let it in. page 188

Could he pull off their trick, their joke,
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautifully written story Hamnet is. There is an intro from the author right at the beginning of the book that gives a wonderful insight into the idea behind this story.

The story begins with Hamnet looking for his sister Judith, and when he discovers her she is ill with a fever. Their mother is out in the fields looking after her beehives and is unaware of what is happening at home.

The story of Hamnet, Judith and the other family members alternates with that of Agnes, her life growing up
Angela Smith
I love to read anything that is Shakespeare related and this didn't disappoint. Maggie O'Farrell has produced an intimate portrait of "what might have happened" Surrounding the death of Shakespeare's only son, Hamnet. We all know Anne Hathaway as Anne, but she is Agnes in this story. I was interested as to why she was called Agnes and after looking around on the internet, I found that she was named Agnes in her father's will.

Anyway, the book begins with Hamnet searching through the house for
Mar 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Too long. It took me three months to finish. There are flashes of great writing here and parts of the book were incredibly engaging, but its too long. Large chunks feel repetitive and extraneous to the story telling. Her editor has really let her down. Cut 25 to 40% of this book and youd have something formidable. ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2020
There are so many risks picking up a beloved authors departure into a new genre. I felt it going into I Am, I Am, I Am and was blown away. I felt it coming into Hamnet and now Im convinced that historical fiction is Maggie OFarrells wheelhouse. Is there anything she cant do?

William Shakespeare, usually the star of every story he appears in, takes a backseat to his magical, empathetic and vivid wife Agnes. OFarrells ability to take the few facts we have about Agnes Hathaway and weave such a
Mairead Hearne (
Hamnet by Maggie O Farrell is the highly anticipated new release from this much loved writer. Due for publication on March 31st with Tinder Press it is described as a stunning new departure for Maggie O Farrells fiction the heart-stopping story behind Shakespeares most famous play. I studied Hamlet in school but I must add that my knowledge of Shakespeare himself is minimal so I was well intrigued to read Hamnet and dive into the imagination of Maggie O Farrell.

Hamnet is a deliciously sumptuous
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'And there, by the fire, held in the arms of his mother, in the room in which he learnt to crawl, to eat, to walk, to speak, Hamnet takes his last breath.
He draws it in, he lets it out.
Then there is silence, stillness. Nothing more.'

In the year that we get the last volume of Hilary Mantel's trilogy, I asked myself when I approached this new novel by Maggie O'Farrell: 'is there room for another historical novel set in the 16th century, a fictionalised account of a real historical character, and
Callum McLaughlin
In a bold departure from her previous work, OFarrell attempts to paint a portrait of the relationship between William Shakespeare and his wife, particularly concerning the death of their 11-year-old son.

Its important to note that the names Hamnet and Hamlet were entirely interchangeable in Shakespeares day, and so the primary question OFarrell concerns herself with is why The Bard chose to name that particular play/character after his deceased son. The second (and most interesting) thing to note
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Maggie OFarrell is an author Ive always enjoyed reading but I think Hamnet will be one of my favourites. In 1596 Hamnet/Hamlet (names are interchangeable) the son of William Shakespeare died, cause unknown. This captivating story takes us backwards and forwards from 1580 to 1599 to the writing of Hamlet. In 1580 our would be actor and playwright is transfixed by his first sight of Agnes (Anne) Hathaway as he tries without great success to tutor her reluctant stepbrothers. We get a glimpse of his ...more
Heather James
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hamnet is heartbreakingly beautiful. I will be thinking about this novel for a very long time.

Hamnet tells the story of Shakespeare's only son, who died age eleven of unknown causes. It flows between voices and timelines effortlessly, detailing the early relationship of Hamnet's parents, the dynamics of his family life, and, once it builds to its devastating climax, the heart-wrenching impact of his death.

If a reader knows what's going to happen before a story begins, there's a danger the
Jodie Matthews
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Its hard to know how to review this one. A book that has garnered so much prestige before its even been published, a book that has finally given Maggie OFarrell the recognition she deserves (first time on the womens prize long list!).

More than anything, Hamnet is the story of Agnes (more commonly known as Anne), the woman who married Shakespeare / though her life was much more than that - and thats what Maggie explores. Filled to bursting with herbalism and magic, Agnes story takes us through
Verity Halliday
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I loved Maggie O'Farrell's new novel Hamnet as much as I thought I would.

The story is an elegant portrayal of Agnes Hathaway's marriage to William Shakespeare, told in jumpcut segments between the couple's courtship, early marriage, birth of children and finally the performance of the play Hamlet after the death of their beloved son.

William takes a back seat to Agnes during the whole book, being variously referred to as "the glover's son", "the Latin tutor" and other descriptions rather than by
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading Hamnet: I found it incredibly compelling, the writing is a delight, and the characterisation feels very natural and familiar. It must be said, this is a novel about the death of a child, so please be prepared for that. I'm still musing over the use of Shakespeare, as much of this story has necessarily been invented (given how very little we know of Shakespeare's personal life), so could have been about a fictional family. I suppose the key is how Hamnet, the son, relates ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wish I would have read the authors note at the end at the beginning, she explains some of her creative choices, choices that had distracted me throughout the book.

Maggie O'Farrell has become my new favorite author in recent months. I am not sure where I have been all her literary life, but I am so glad I have found her. She has a beautiful writing style, and a way of weaving stories that is elegant and caring and enjoyable. I love her creative decision to never name Hamnets father, we all
Retellings and reimaginings of classic literature have become popular over the last few years. British-Irish author Maggie O'Farrell approaches this trend with a twist: rather than retelling the Hamlet, she explores the story behind it. The novel takes us to William Shakespeares home in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Agnes Shakespeare is dealing with the loss of her eleven year old son, Hamnet. OFarrell provides a compelling portrait of a woman usually condensed to a single footnote. An important ...more
Kate Sidley
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When OFarrell was studying Hamlet at school, her teacher that Shakespeare had a son called Hamnet who died a few years before the play Hamlet was written. I was struck by the curious and sad symmetry of these names, she has written. What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his son? What was this unusual act telling us?

Thirty years later, she has explored that question in this rich imagining of the family, the child's death, and how the play might have come to be.

Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this moving, accessible novel about a family in 1580s Warwickshire. The fact that its Shakespeares family is almost irrelevant. Its a study of family love and duty and loss, with an intriguing central character in Agnes. I love Maggie OFarrells books and this is an impressive extension into historical fiction. ...more
Such a beautiful story! I've read several of Shakespeare's plays and know a bit about him, but I really enjoyed reading about his family. Agnes is enchanting and interesting, and I loved the way the author described her thoughts and feelings. Hamnet was a wonderful character, and I felt every moment of his panic as he tried to find help for his twin. Part 2 of the story made me tear up, and the emotions everyone was experiencing was almost too much. Highly recommend this one, especially if you ...more
Mary Robideaux
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read an ARC. Maggie O'Farrell is on my "will read anything by" list, and she didn't let me down with this one. I don't know how you can be lyrical while describing how the plague arrives in your town, be she did it. This is an inventive and deeply felt novel; one I couldn't put down.
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Maggie O'Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones' 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels - the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.

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