Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

When a Latin tutor gazes out a window, barely listening to his charges recite their verb conjugations, his eye catches sight of a bewitching woman with a falcon on her arm. Suddenly taken with her, he extricates himself from his classroom duties and goes to find her,  feels he needs to know who she is.  He soon comes to learn that this woman, Agnes, has a sense not only of birds, but of so much of nature,  human nature, and natural remedies – more than most. It is only when tragedy upends their lives when they both learn that one can only control so much of what happens in nature and that man will always have limitations.  

Underneath this love story is also a fictional version of how the play, Hamlet, came to be written by William Shakespeare. The tutor, of course, is Shakespeare, and Hamnet is his son, a twin, who died at a young age of the Black Plague. The plot is vividly imagined and lovingly told, but it is no wonder that a tragedy was borne from it. It is a heart-wrenching story.  And not to worry – even knowing this, there are still a few twists that keep the reader guessing until the very end. 

For me, there was quite a bit of hype surrounding this book, which was maybe/maybe not deserved, so I don’t want to build it up for anyone else. But it is a worthwhile read, particularly if you like historical fiction.

I’d be very curious to hear what others felt about this one!

2 thoughts on “Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

  1. I just finished this book. I also had been drawn in by the hype.

    As a twins mom, like you, the book tore at my heart strings. I thought some of the language was extraordinary, and I found myself rereading some sentences just to savor them. The author definitely brought the reader into the environment, but it was just so dark, so painfully sad… I thought Agnes was a very special character, beautifully imagined, and her connection to her brother was quite unique. It might’ve been a little more helpful to have a fuller understanding of Shakespeare’s experience in London… I was relieved that the author captured that final moment of understanding between Agnes and Shakespeare after they experienced their deep suffering so separately.

    Liked by 1 person

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