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Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
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Hamnet (original 2020; edition 2021)

by Maggie O'Farrell (Author)

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1,4941009,141 (4.28)277
"A thrilling departure: a short, piercing, deeply moving novel about the death of Shakespeare's 11 year old son Hamnet--a name interchangeable with Hamlet in 15th century Britain--and the years leading up to the production of his great play. England, 1580. A young Latin tutor--penniless, bullied by a violent father--falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman--a wild creature who walks her family's estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when his beloved young son succumbs to bubonic plague. A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a hypnotic recreation of the story that inspired one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down--a magnificent departure from one of our most gifted novelists"--… (more)
Member:kurtau
Title:Hamnet
Authors:Maggie O'Farrell (Author)
Info:Vintage (2021), 320 pages
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Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (2020)

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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Few, if any stories have been so masterfully told. The writing is magical; the characters come alive on every page; and, the plot is inventive, gripping and sad. ( )
  Doondeck | Jul 17, 2021 |
Love, loss, grief, and what follows grief form the outline of this absorbing and moving novel. The story is mostly imagined as there is scant evidence to tell us the story of the life and death of Hamnet Shakespeare, and the imaging is rich and full. We meet all the personae dramatis and see them interact and all change. The second part of the book, no real spoiler here, is concerned with living after the worst tragedy a parent can endure. It is both horrible and wonderful, as life so often is. I really appreciated that the book is not centered on William Shakespeare, in fact Ms. O'Farrell never uses his name. He is "the son" or "the husband" or "Judith's father" as appropriate. Instead it centers on Anne, or as she is referred to here, Agnes, his wife and their children. All the characters are given full development and despite the relatively short length, 310 pages, the book is complete and deep. There is one character who so angered me, and she is aptly summed up by “[she] is never content and she cannot rest if others are. The only thing that pleases her is making others as unhappy as she is." I wish we could all cut those types out of our lives. This is a journey I am very glad I took, it is happy, sad, edifying, and enraging but in the end it is human, real, and touching. What more can one want? ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
Hamnet. Hmm. Long awaited, much anticipated, not what I expected.

This novel took me a long time to get into it, and to be honest were it not the book talk of the town last year I'd probably have abandoned it. The stilted prose style felt suffocating somehow, unduly dense.

A hundred odd pages in I finally got into my stride with it, but then the child Hamnet dies and it became simply the saddest, most upsetting thing to read about it, and I found myself getting cross that O'Farrell is getting her literary creative juices flowing by ripping the reader's heart out with what can only be one of the most upsetting contexts of grief, that of a mother losing her child. I enjoy a bit of misery lit probably more than the average person, but this was too much, even for me. It was the book equivalent of rubber-necking at the most terrible car crash, and by the end I felt like the whole point of the novel was simply to sell us some cheap seats to the most upsetting of shows. Emotional manipulation, I believe they call it.

I get why others liked it, but I was surprised at how this particular portrait of grief rubbed me up the wrong way. Most likely it's because it was based on the death of an 11 year old child, and with one of my own children that exact age it just wasn't something I enjoyed immersing myself in.

Also, as little seems to be known about Anne Hathaway, O'Farrell also seemed to take huge historical licence with her interpretation of her marriage to Shakespeare and her life in general, and whilst I'm happy with the necessary padding that comes with historical padding, this novel seemed to go a step further.

3.5 stars - a tale well told once I got used to the narrative style, but it pushed my buttons in the wrong way. ( )
  AlisonY | Jul 13, 2021 |
I usually enjoy Maggie O'Farrell's books, and this was no exception, based on fact with enough supposition and make believe, can't wait for her next. ( )
  pedrodeg | Jul 13, 2021 |
Beautifully told story in excellent prose, reimagining the Shakespeare and his writing of Hamlet. ( )
  jvgravy | Jul 13, 2021 |
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Epigraph
He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone. 

Hamlet, Act IV, scene v
Hamnet and Hamlet are in fact the same name, entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

—Steven Greenblatt, "The Death of Hamnet and the Making of Hamlet," New York Review of Books (October 21, 2004)
I am dead:
Thou livest;
. . . draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story

      —Hamlet, Act V, scene ii
Dedication
To Will
First words
A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.
Quotations
Agnes believes her position, as new daughter-in-law, to be ambiguous, somewhere between apprentice and hen.
The branches of the forest are so dense you cannot feel the rain.
There will be no going back. No undoing of what was laid out for them. The boy has gone and the husband will leave and she will stay and the pigs will need to be fed every day and time runs only one way.
What is the word, Judith asks her mother, for someone who was a twin but is no longer a twin?
... If you were a wife , Judith continues, and your husband dies, then you are a widow. And if its parents die, a child becomes an orphan. But what is the word for what I am? ... Maybe there isn't one, she suggests.
Maybe not, says her mother.
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"A thrilling departure: a short, piercing, deeply moving novel about the death of Shakespeare's 11 year old son Hamnet--a name interchangeable with Hamlet in 15th century Britain--and the years leading up to the production of his great play. England, 1580. A young Latin tutor--penniless, bullied by a violent father--falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman--a wild creature who walks her family's estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when his beloved young son succumbs to bubonic plague. A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a hypnotic recreation of the story that inspired one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down--a magnificent departure from one of our most gifted novelists"--

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