In 1580's England, during the Black Plague a young Latin tutor falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman in this "exceptional historical novel" (The New Yorker) and best-selling winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction.
Agnes is...Read More
Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family's land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.
A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a tender and unforgettable re-imagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, and whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down-a magnificent leap forward from one of our most gifted novelists.
Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, Maggie O'Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh. She is the author of The Hand That First Held Mine (winner of the Costa Novel Award); Instructions for a Heatwave; This Must Be the Place; and most recently, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death.
"Hamnet is an exploration of marriage and grief written into the silent opacities of a life that is at once extremely famous and profoundly obscure... In Hamnet, Shakespeare's marriage is complicated and troubled, yet brimming with love and passion... This novel is at once about the transfiguration of life into art-- it is O'Farrell's extended speculation on how Hamnet's death might have fueled the creation of one of his father's greatest plays-- and at the same time, it is a master class in how she, herself does it... O'Farrell has a melodic relationship to language. There is a poetic cadence to her writing and a lushness in her descriptions of the natural world... We can smell the tang of the various new leathers in the glover's workshop, the fragrance of the apples racked a finger-width apart in the winter storage shed, and we can see how the pale London sun reaches down, like ladders, through the narrow gaps in buildings to illuminate the rain glazed street.... As the book unfolds, it brings its story to a tender and ultimately hopeful conclusion: that even the greatest grief, the most damaged marriage, and most shattered heart might find some solace, some healing." - Geraldine Brooks, the New York Times Book Review
"All too timely...inspired...[An] exceptional historical novel " - The New Yorker
"Magnificent and searing... A family saga so bursting with life, touched by magic, and anchored in affection that I only wish it were true. Of all the stories that argue and speculate about Shakespeare's life, about whether he even wrote his own plays, here is a novel that matches him with a woman overwhelmingly more than worthy... I nearly drowned at the end of this book, and at some other spots besides. It would be wise to keep some tissues handy... So gorgeously written that it transports you from our own plague time right into another and makes you glad to be there." - The Boston Globe
"A tour de force...Although more than 400 years have unspooled since Hamnet Shakespeare's death, the story O'Farrell weaves in this moving novel is timeless and ever-relevant... O'Farrell brilliantly turns to historical fiction to confront a parent's worst nightmare: the death of a child... Hamnet vividly captures the life-changing intensity of maternity in its myriad stages -- from the pain of childbirth to the unassuagable grief of loss. Fierce emotions and lyrical prose are what we've come to expect of O'Farrell. But with this historical novel she has expanded her repertoire, enriching her narrative with atmospheric details of the sights, smells, and relentless daily toil involved in running a household in Elizabethan England -- a domestic arena in which a few missing menstrual rags on washday is enough to alarm a mother of girls." - NPR
"Miraculous... brilliant... A novel told with the urgency of a whispered prayer -- or curse... through the alchemy of her own vision, she has created a moving story about the way loss viciously recalibrates a marriage... A richly drawn and intimate portrait of 16th-century English life set against the arrival of one devastating death." - Ron Charles, The Washington Post