Maggie O’Farrell: Hamnet

I am honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for Hamnet, alongside so many awesome bloggers. My review is written with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and for my copy of the book via the publisher.


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.


I have heard many people in the book world talking about Hamnet and ever since I heard about it, I have been intrigued by the premise and how O’Farrell would make it work. And blimey, does she make it work! Her writing is absolutely beautiful and I could tell immediately the care that went into each sentence to portray to the reader her exact meaning. She is particularly skilled in describing abstract concepts: ideas such as grief, love and depression which run through the whole novel.

As an English Literature graduate, I was interested in how O’Farrell would depict the life of William Shakespeare. But in truth, we don’t see very much of Agnes’ husband, who remains unnamed throughout the novel, as he is often working away on London. The story focuses mostly on Agnes, who is a wonderfully drawn character whose emotions I could feel really deeply, particularly as she struggled to fit in with her family. I felt able to empathise with her the whole way through.

I’m not very familiar with the history of the sixteenth century and what life would have been like for Agnes and her family, but O’Farrell’s research is exemplary. I was immediately transported to the period and able to understand their lifestyles and worries with ease.

Hamnet is a novel that really touched me and it is incredibly easy to see why it’s been so eagerly anticipated.

Hamnet is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:


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