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Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

As seen:

  • Women's Prize for Fiction 2020

By Maggie O'Farrell

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1 review

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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.


29 Jan 2021


Hamnet was probably a 2.5* rather than a 3* purely because the group seemed to be so largely apathetic towards it. It was well written (whatever that actually means) but ultimately left us shrugging our shoulders. This is not a sleight or anything on Maggie O'Farrell who clearly knows her onions, but Hamnet just did very little in terms of generating discussion or passion.

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