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[Review] Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

by The Borrowers Book Group Kesgrave Library

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The Borrowers Book group at Kesgrave Library share their thoughts on Hamnet, written by award-winning novelist Maggie O'Farrell.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

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.

Thoroughly recommended for a book group, this is a beautifully written book. Set in the 1590s in Stratford in Warwickshire, the story is creative and imaginatively written based on the minimal historical facts available.

The quality of writing hooks the reader from the start although the plot takes a little while to gather momentum. The sense of history is amazing and evoking the language of the time. This is written effortlessly in the first person, and cleverly done. Descriptions of both town and countryside vividly draw on all the senses.

The book poignantly expresses painful emotions on dying and death. At its core is the strong central character of Agnes Hathaway and how she copes with the rawness of grief as the death of her child tears the family apart. She is supported by another strong character, her lovely brother, Bartholomew.

Recommendation: Beautifully conceived and written, this is a remarkable book, and thoroughly enjoyable to read.