While I may not have read as many books as usual this year, the quality of the books that I have read has been insane. Hamnet is no exception; despite my slower reading pace this year, I couldn’t help but devour this in two days.
I’m not alone in loving this book so I’ll keep the summary short. Hamnet is (loosely) based on the story of Shakespeare’s son, who died as a child. You wouldn’t know his dad is a famous playwright though as the book is much more focused on Hamnet and Agnes (Anne) Hathaway.
As such, this isn’t really a Shakespeare story but one of love and loss within a family.
The way that O’Farrell writes about that love and loss is truly mesmerising. I quite simply could not put this book down because I was utterly swept up in this family. She has a real talent for writing small, meandering threads of a story which all weave together beautifully. The real beauty of this book is that it doesn’t have to be just a Shakespeare story ; it could be about any family trying to navigate their way into the world with all of their messy relationships.
There’s also a touch of the supernatural in this story that really elevates it. Not much, but a slight sprinkle of something otherworldly that hides between the paragraphs. It made for a truly fascinating narrative and character study of Agnes. I really loved reading her story and viewing things through her eyes, especially when that didn’t match up with what the other characters thought, said and did. She really has a potency as a character that hooks a reader – I think I could have read another 200 pages of her story happily.
This book has received high praise recently and it’s easy to see why. It’s certainly a new favourite of mine!