Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet came out in 2020 and quickly became an award winning novel by Maggie O’Farrell; and it’s easy to understand why. Hamnet was named the Best Book of 2020 by the Guardian, the Financial Times, Literary Hub, and NPR. Without giving any spoilers, Hamnet follows the life of the children and wife of William Shakespeare during the 16th century and includes a story of how Hamlet came to be; out of plague, out of love and out of grief. 

O’Farrell provides a unique perspective on life in the early modern period, and an especially unique perspective on the Shakespeare. The story is told through the eyes of Shakespeares wife, Agnes (otherwise known as Anne Hathaway), and his son Hamnet. While, at first, the switching of viewpoints was a bit frustrating for me, after a few chapters both perspectives really drew me in.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the depth present in the novel; I was expecting historical fiction that centered around Shakespeare and his family and his plays. What I got was something even greater. While Hamnet is historical fiction, it is relevant even today. It examines the realities of life, of love and marriage, and of grief. You don’t need to be a lover of Shakespeare, or even historical fiction, to fall in love with Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet because it is truly extraordinary and one of the best books as of late. I highly recommend it.

Rating 5/5.

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