Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Title: Hamnet

Author: Maggie O’Farrell

Pages: 372 Pages

Publisher: Headline

The Blurb


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.

The Review

I love stories of sidelined characters throughout history. Alison Weir has created magic by telling the stories of Henry the 8ths wives and Maggie O’Farrell has created alchemy with her story about William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet.

Part of the brilliance about Hamnet is that we don’t really know a lot about Shakespeare beyond his plays. This gives O’Farrell great scope in creating a story using what little we do know to paint this brilliant tapestry of Shakespeare’s life.

O’Farrell took me to Shakespearean England. I was there through the tribulations of Shakespeare branching out. I witnessed his wedding and the birth of his children. I wept along with characters. That is the power of Hamnet.

It is a brilliant book and worthy of all the prizes and accolades bestowed upon it.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is available now.

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