Published: March 31st, 2020
Publisher: Tinder Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and Tinder Press for the eBook ARC.
TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.
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 everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?
Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
For months I have been itching to get my hands on this book and was green with envy of those fortunate enough to get an early proof. So when the chance arose to take part in a last minute blog tour for this eagerly anticipated novel I jumped at it. Breathtaking, atmospheric, tender and absorbing, this exquisite story has instantly become my favourite book this year. It feels almost impossible to write this review as I know whatever I write cannot do justice to its sheer brilliance. But I will try.
Hamnet is a fresh perspective on Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy; the heartbreaking events that touched his family in 1596. It seamlessly moves between characters and timelines, using flashbacks to tell the story of the family prior to that fateful year. Before reading this book I knew almost nothing about Shakespeare’s personal life, but I was immediately immersed in their world as the author brought to life sixteenth century England. It is a work of both fact and fiction, the author creating a rich tapestry woven from the little known facts of Hamnet and his family. The writing is lyrical, poetic, and meticulous, telling the story with fluency as I savoured each word.
Each character is deftly and vividly written, with Agnes, Hament and Judith being the ones I particularly felt a connection with. Hament’s energy shines from the pages while his twin, Judith, exudes a delicate aura that, like her brother, made me want to protect her. Agnes took me some time to warm to but she was soon the character I related to most of all, probably because we are both mothers and I could recognise my own maternal feelings in hers. The myth of her childhood also made her incredibly fascinating and a bit of an enigma.
The most surprising element for me was how timely this story felt. I’ve read a lot about the plague, particularly Eyam, but until now have never been able to relate to the idea of being quarantined for fear of spreading a deadly illness for which there is no cure. Being able to relate to this made the fear, helplessness and heartache all the more palpable and like something that could actually happen to me and my family, rather than simply a tragic story that only happened to people many years ago.
Hamnet is an outstanding work of literature. Affecting, poignant and lingering, it is also an example of storytelling at its finest. I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time I’ve read the author’s work and I’m now wondering why I waited so long. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. Read it now!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, and eight novels: After You’d Gone, My Lover’s Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, Instructions For A Heatwave, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award, This Must Be The Place, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and Hamnet.
She lives in Edinburgh.
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