Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Our Review
William Shakespeare is a towering figure in literature, yet little is known of his early life or his family living in Stratford-on-Avon
Maggie O’Farrell has created a deeply moving re-imaging of the lives of Shakespeare’s children, including his only son Hamnet, and of Shakespeare himself as a young man.
It is a time of plague and our novel opens with Hamnet’s twin – his beloved sister Judith, falling seriously ill within a few short hours. With haunting overtones to present day. the young Hamnet races into the town searching for help,
Sliding between time periods, Maggie O’Farrell paints a vivid portrait of life in a small village riddled with superstition and judgment. Shakespeare is a young Latin tutor, who is in love with the wild and wilful Agnes – of whom it is whispered throughout the village that she is a witch, at one with ‘forest sprites or the creatures of the leaves’.
He also suffers under the brutal hand of his drunkard father, a man who was once held in esteem and now has fallen from grace.
As we switch between Shakespeare’s early life as a young man, to him being a father with children of his own, we see that all the big emotions of love, envy, greed, mercy, sorrow, pride and vengeance that are evident in his early life will go onto influence his great works. Only four years after his sons death, he will write his masterpiece Hamlet.
Hamnet is a mesmerizing portrayal of one of history’s most remarkable playwrights and his intriguing family. Highly recommended.
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books