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"Of all the stories that argue and speculate about Shakespeare's life … here is a novel … so gorgeously written that it transports you." -The Boston Globe

England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on. A young Latin tutor-penniless and bullied by a violent father-falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family's land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.


Near the bottom, he pauses for a moment, looking back the way he has come. Then, suddenly resolute, he leaps the final three stairs, as is his habit. He stumbles as he lands, falling to his knees on t...

About the Author:

Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, MAGGIE O'FARRELL grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh. She has worked as a waitress, chambermaid, bike messenger, teacher, arts administrator, journalist (in Hong Kong and London), and as the…

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C.R. Hurst
literary fiction, character driven, historical fiction...More

A book like Hamnet is witten when life inspires art. Let me explain.

Little is known about the personal lives of William Shakepeare, his wive, Anne Hathaway, or his children. However, a few details are often noted. Shakespeare and his wife had three children: Susanna who was born six months after their marriage and twins, Judith and Hamnet, two years later. Hamnet tragically dies when he is eleven years old during an outbreak of bubonic plague. The rest of their family life lives in the shadowy world of speculation. It is in this world that author, Maggie O'Farrell creates her novel, Hamnet.

O'Farrell brings the Shakespeares to light and life with painstaking detail (some might say excruciating detail), but I quickly learned to appreciate the moment-by-moment study of their lives: Hamnet's search for his family after he finds Judith ill, Anne's (or Agnes as she is named in the novel) courtship by her unnamed husband and their establishment of a home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the extended family's mourning of the death of Hamnet, as each family member deals with unimaginable loss. The only character that O'Farrell surprisingly devotes little time to is Shakepeare himself. He remains an enigmatic figure in the novel. though he is central to its message. Those who know the works of the Bard can recognize the inspiration to his work, in particular the death of a son for whom his earliest tragedy is named - Hamlet.

Life can indeed inspire art.

8/4/2023 4:31:43 PM

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