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Customer Reviews

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One of our greatest living novelists resurrects the short life of Hamnet Shakespeare, in a lyrically written and emotionally devastating account of the Bard’s only son. 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; a 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 re-imagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.


Author: Maggie O'Farrell

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Staff Review

A truly beautiful and lyrical piece of work by Maggie O’Farrell, who I hadn’t read before. I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed every page from the first to the very last. Truly amazing.

‘Hamnet’ takes the reader on a journey from two alternate timeline perspectives, with such ease and precision. One is set over several decades and the other over the course of a day. The way that these two strands come together to form a parallel of life and death, is a gut-wrenching tragedy worthy of Shakespeare himself.

‘Hamnet’ tells the story of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet a fictional telling of his unknown life and death at the tender age of 11 years old in 1596, all set in their merchant town house in Warwickshire. The author writes in such a descriptive fashion, that dialogue is few and far between and yet all the characters breathe such life. The house itself becomes a character in O’Farrell’s sea of poetry and lyrical descriptions, witnessing all the happiness, confusion, and eventual tragedy.

There’s something unique about knowing the ending of a book before you’ve even read the first page. That Hamnet dies, inspires his father to write one of the most beloved and famous plays of all time, ‘Hamlet’. It’s as if you are watching life on the side lines, a spectre that can see the future, yet cannot interfere. You know that pain and anguish is in the future, yet you cannot do anything to stop it. O’Farrell writes in such a way that, despite not having children of my own but being from a close family, I still felt every crushing emotion of a parent. I even gladly admit that I cried real tears at the ultimate moment, also the final words written totally almost finished me off!

I cannot praise ‘Hamnet’ highly enough and I recommend the book for all to read. This is a fictional account but, you feel that this could be true. ‘Hamnet’ is a memorial truly befitting the loss of a child and shows how different people deal with their grief in different ways. Maggie O’Farrell has made a new fan out of me and I thoroughly look forward to a new book for me to read in the not too distant future.

Reviewed by Ben (Visitor Operations Assistant)