I’m proud and excited to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for Hamnet, the incredible new book by Maggie O’Farrell. Thank you to Anne Cater and Tinder Press for giving me the opportunity to read and review this stunning book.
About the book:
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.
About the author:
Maggie O’Farrell is the author of seven 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, and THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award. Maggie has also written a memoir, I AM, I AM, I AM. She lives in Edinburgh.
How is it even possible to do this remarkable book justice? Any review I write couldn’t possibly convey the sheer brilliance of Hamnet or the lyrical beauty of Maggie O’Farrell’s writing. As someone who has loved all of Maggie’s previous novels I was beyond excited to be given the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for her new book, which is something of a departure from her usual style. In Hamnet the author turns her hand to historical fiction for the first time, cleverly reimagining the story of William Shakespeare, his wife Agnes (Anne) and their only son Hamnet.
Shakespeare himself is absent for the majority of the book and is never actually named, only ever referred to by terms such as ‘the Glovemaker’s son’, ‘the father’ or ‘the Latin Tutor’. But that doesn’t take anything away from this story at all, as Hamnet is so much more than a book about William Shakespeare himself. It begins as a love story between William and Agnes, but soon turns into a haunting story of family and the bond between twins, of a marriage pushed to the brink by a grief so deep that it almost destroys you, with the guilt both parents feel palpable as they try to make sense of the immense loss they have suffered. But above all it is the story of Hamnet, a boy who has been largely forgotten, but one whose name was given to one of the most enduring plays ever written.
What can I say? Hamnet is quite possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. The emotional impact of the loss of a child is so exquisitely written that it almost feels like a physical punch to the gut, the devastation Agnes feels as a bereaved mother is so painfully real that I felt breathless with the weight of her grief.
This is storytelling at its very best, instantly transporting you to a time and place that feels as real to you as if you were actually there. Maggie O’Farrell’s writing is beautiful, with a breathtaking lyrical quality to it that has the ability to move you beyond words. With this book Maggie O’Farrell has taken her writing to a whole new level. It is a stunning piece of fiction that deserves all of the accolades it is receiving and I loved every single word of it.
I knew that Hamnet was going to be a book I would love, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer brilliance held within its pages. Maggie O’Farrell’s writing goes from strength to strength, her storytelling so heartbreakingly real that I felt like these were people I knew and cared about, my heart shattering into a million pieces as the inevitable loss became so devastatingly real.
But aside from the very human aspects of this story is the history itself. Set in a time of plague and disease, the eerie parallels to the world we’re living in today are palpable. Maggie O’Farrell could never have imagined how scarily relevant some of the themes in Hamnet would turn out to be, but this only adds to the sheer brilliance of a book that will stay with me for a long time to come.
And as I said at the beginning of this post, there is no way any review I could write would ever be able to do this remarkable book justice. Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet is everything I hoped it would be and more. It is a work of literary genius, a stunningly beautiful read and a book that I will never forget.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is available to buy now: Amazon UK
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