Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell)

Oh, this writing is so beautiful

★★★★★★★

Title: Hamnet
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction
First published: 2020
Edition: Hardback, published by Tinder Press

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 three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

I put off reading this book for far too long. My expectations were so high and I was so afraid I would be disappointed. Now I wish I had read it sooner, as this is a truly beautiful book.

Its story is fictional, but the touchstones to actual historical figures gives it a gravity it may otherwise not have had. From the beginning you are aware that Hamnet will die and the whole story appears to build to that moment, which creates low-level tension from the start. But then after the fact all the feelings and emotions crashed over me in waves. Grief is written in such a beautiful heartwrenching way that I found myself sobbing for pages and pages. Call me weird, but I kind of love it when a book overwhelms with emotion.

Despite all the tears, I did not find this a depressing book. At its heart it is a story about family, about love, and simply about life. The author brings the past to life in exquisite detail and I relished the passages in which she describes the most mundane of chores or actions in beautiful prose. I think O’Farrell’s writing here is truly inspiring.

I love this book with all my heart and I am so, so glad I finally read it. I would highly recommend this.

7 out of 7 stars

2 thoughts on “Book Thoughts: Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell)

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