This is a very engaging reimagining of the life of Shakespeare's wife, Agnes (in this version), who O'Farrell presents as a free-spirited and forthright young woman who entrances the future playwright. Filled with wonderfully rich details, O' Farrell also does a brilliant job of depicting village life in Renaissance England. Makes for poignant reading. Recommended By Sheila N., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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 in this national best seller and winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
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 taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.
A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a tender and unforgettable re-imagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, and whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down — a magnificent leap forward from one of our most gifted novelists.
“Heartstopping. Hamnet does for the Shakespeare story what Jean Rhys did for Jane Eyre, inhabiting it, enlarging it and enriching it in ways that will alter the readers view for ever” Patrick Gale, author of A Place Called Winter
“I don’t know how anyone could fail to love this book. It is a marvel: a great work of imaginative recreation and a great story. It is also a moral achievement to have transformed that young child from being a literary footnote into someone so tenderly alive that part of you wishes he had survived and Hamlet never been written” Dominic Dromgoole, author of Hamlet, Globe to Globe
“Grief and loss so finely written I could hardly bear to read it” Sarah Moss, author of Ghost Wall
“What could be more common, over centuries and continents, than the death of a child — and yet Maggie O’Farrell, with her flawless sentences and furious heart, somehow makes it new. This story of remarkable people bereft of their boy will leave you shaking with loss but also the love from which family is spun.” Emma Donoghue, author of Room
“All too timely... [An] exceptional historical novel.” The New Yorker
About the Author
Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, Maggie O’Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh. She is the author of The Hand That First Held Mine (winner of the Costa Novel Award); Instructions for a Heatwave; This Must Be the Place; and most recently, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death.