'Dazzling. Devastating' Kamila Shamsie
'Stunning... deserves to win prizes' Marian Keyes
A stunning new departure for Maggie O'Farrell's fiction, HAMNET is the heart-stopping story behind Shakespeare's most famous play.
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 everywh...more
Quite often, the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist contains one book more fanciful than the rest. The rogue book in the lineup usually has unique qualities that manifest either as robust lyricism or as strange yet scintillating content. Occasionally, the longlist offers a book with both qualities (think 2017 Women's Prize longlist nominee, The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill).
It's quite possible Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell is this year's rogue conten ...more
It grabbed me from the start....and I wasn’t expecting it to.
I really enjoyed it — I can’t imagine any reader who wouldn’t like it.
Not to worry if you’re Shakespeare-challenged. I mean ‘really’ don’t worry. (I did).... needlessly.
The title seems a little misleading- but for those who haven’t read this yet....I’ll say no more.
Great book to go in blind.
Not only does it not disappoint— it’s SURPRISINGLY MAGNIFICENT.....
The writing i ...more
Without a doubt, this is a brilliantly imagined novel written by one who is quickly becoming a favorite author. I’m afraid I’ll have to explain myself for not singing its praises as effusively as I would have liked, but I’ll get to that later. There are a lot more positives to this than there are negativ ...more
I especially hated the portrayal of Agnes as one of those almost witchy 'wise women' who abound in historical fiction: fey, wit ...more
very early on, i thought this book would be too ‘description’ heavy for my personal liking. there are paragraphs upon paragraphs of very detailed description, so i was unsure if i would connect with this kind of narrative (especially because its written in present tense). but slowly, and ever surely, i became completely absorbed by the end. it definitely creeped up on me.
what i love most about this, though, is h ...more
‘’Then Judith is in a crowd. It is night- time, cold; the glow of lanterns punctuates the freezing dark. She thinks it is the Candlemas fair. She is in and also above a crowd on a pair of strong shoulders. Her father. Her legs grip his neck and he holds her by each ankle; she has buried her hands in his hair. Thick dark hair he has like Susanna’s. She uses the smallest of her fingers to tap t ...more
Some scenes were so moving that I felt physical sensation while reading them. For a reader to experience a novel in this way is a gift from the author.
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
—William Shakespeare (The Life and Death of King John)
No one knows what caused the death of Hamnet Shakespeare in 1596, at the tender age of eleven. Likewise, little is known about his mother Agnes (ak ...more
This is a work of fiction about William Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway, their family, and the death of their only son Hamnet who died at 11 yrs of age.
It’s the story of a marriage, and grief....of what life was like in 16th century England in the time of the Black Death plague.
It was a sensual, beautiful and magical story.
The heart of the book is Hamnet’s mother and you feel everything along right with her!
I had no desire to read Hamnet when I first heard of it. Shakespeare gets married, they have kids, one dies, he writes "Hamlet".
Nope, not interested. Then several of my friends wrote amazing reviews and reeled me in. I was still hesitant but thought, Why not? Just give it a try and DNF if it's not interesting.
Let me tell you. In the beginning I was mesmerized by Maggie O'Farrell's writing. The descriptions made everything so vivid, the setting and characters leapt off the ...more
Words fail me, or at least words that would be worthy enough of this look into another time, a time that has an almost uncanny resemblance, in some ways, to the current plague that has fallen upon us. But it is also so much more than that, as it exposes the grief that accompanies the loss of the life of a child, and how quickly, and invisibly this plague travels from one place, one creature to another again and again over a short period of time, to land on an innocent person, a ...more
Almost nothing more is known about the boy’s brief life. Four centuries later, his death is a crater on the dark side of the moon. How it impacted his twin sister and his parents is impossible to gauge. No letters or diaries — if there were any — survive. The world’s greatest poet did not immortalize his lost child in verse.
Instead, we have only a few tantalizing references in Shakespeare’s plays: the lamen ...more
What I didn't realize was that this is a work of art. An ...more
This is another very strong contender for this year's Women's Prize. It is a historical novel, but because the events and lives O'Farrell describes are almost entirely undocumented she has much more freedom to imagine details than Hilary Mantel does in The Mirror & the Light.
As she also explains in her afterword, O'Farrell changed a few minor details and names, but there is historical evidence from her father's will for her choice to name her most important chara ...more
WINNER OF THE 2020 WOMENS PRIZE.
Update. See comments for my notes in the author’s interview with Peter Florence at the 2020 virtual Hay Festival.
This book was on my radar since the Guardian’s Alex Preston in his 2020 preview said it was the book that might beat Hilary Mantel to her third Booker. Now both go head to head for the Women's Prize.
My thematic thoughts on the book - including some extensive quotes, best read after comple ...more
could be worse. ...more
If you are looking for a happy little story, this is not one. If, however, you are looking for a story that is brilliantly written, with scenes vividly painted, with emotions so honest they are raw, characters brought to life, than you need look no further. I was brought into lives so artfully portrayed, that I felt with them, lived with them ...more
Hamnet is a fictionalised account of of William Shakespere’s son Hamnet and family and while little is known about his son Hamnet, Maggie O Farrell’s historical fiction novel is beautifully imagined and written and as a reader I enjoyed reading about this forgotten child and the family of the famous playwright. It’s the story of the bond between t ...more
Wait, don’t get excited—it wasn’t the story that made me squirm like a worm. It was me trying to rate this book that sent me into squirm-land. I yelled at myself, “Stop wiggling and just whisper 4 already!...Really, what is the big effing deal? It’s Maggie O’Farrell, that’s what the big effing deal is. Although 3 stars kept screaming in my head, I finally went with what I know is right in this world: I gave it a 3.5 but rounded up to 4. Truly, O’Farrell doesn’t write anything ...more
William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet four years after his son Hamnet died at the age of eleven. Hamnet and Hamlet are the same name.
Now I will admit that before I read this novel, I did not even know Shakespeare had a son, let alone that he tragically died at the age of eleven. Yes, to say my knowledge of Shakespeare was rudimentary would be a compliment. However, I believe you don’t have to know anything about Shakespeare, who he was, his life, his ...more
The first half of the story alternates between two timelines. Hamnet is home alone in Stratford ...more
"Horatio, I am dead, thou liv'st; report my cause aright to the unsatisfied"--Hamlet
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a devastating and beautiful book. You have to read it. I guess we can call it Tudor historical fiction, written in lyrical Elizabethan prose, where plums wear "red-gold jackets near to bursting with sweetness." Lyrical description throughout. S ...more
The story never gripped me. it boasts itself as the illuminating story behind Shakespeare's Hamlet, but the links Maggie O'Farrell ...more
So many have written wonderful reviews of this book and I add my voice to the chorus of those who loved this book, thought it to be something special, and felt their emotions go into overdrive while reading it.
Maggie O'Farrell has taken a bit of history, the untimely death of Shakespeare and Agnes's (Anne) son and written a touching moving story of what she perceived was their reaction. Hamnet was a twin, a child much loved by his pare ...more
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