book review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell | BookBrowse



HAMNET by Maggie O’Farrell
Tinder Press, 2020


William Shakespeare’s name is never used in Hamnet — a conspicuous absence around which Maggie O’Farrell forms her richly imaginative narrative. Instead, the novel tells the story of those closest to Shakespeare: his parents, John and Mary; his wife Agnes; his daughter Susanna; and his twin children Hamnet and Judith. Shakespeare himself features in the narrative, though he is only ever described in relation to those around him, referred to as the Latin tutor, the husband, the father, the son. The result of this narrative decision is twofold: it pushes Shakespeare’s family to the foreground, but it also humanizes Shakespeare himself by reminding the reader that none of his works were created in a vacuum. This is the central conceit around which the novel’s climax is formed, as O’Farrell imagines the potential influence of Hamnet’s death in 1596 on Hamlet, written between 1599 and 1601.

You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about the real Anne Hathaway and Hamnet Shakespeare HERE.


9 thoughts on “book review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell | BookBrowse

  1. Yesss I’m so glad you loved this! It wasn’t quite a 5-star for me, but my favorite read from the WP longlist for sure. And that was without much Shakespeare context- I’m sure this was great to read alongside so many of his plays!


  2. It sounds like I would have got more out of this if I’d refreshed my Shakespeare knowledge as recently as you have! I’m a big O’Farrell fan, but this didn’t click for me. It’s still better than most of the WP longlist though.


  3. Really looking forward to picking this up in the next week or two! It’s very encouraging that there has been such positive reactions from the group, and I need to read your Anne Hathaway & Hamnet Shakespeare piece asap.


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