Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell


Who, in Ireland, would want to read a novel based on the family life of William Shakespeare? We have done Shakespeare to death in our school system. As adults some feel obliged to read, watch or go to his plays. Please leave the baggage at the door and come in to experience life in rural England in the fifteen hundreds with the Bard’s family.

Essentially the author uses a few facts from William Shakespeare’s life to bring us to a new appreciation of how people deal with tragedy. We meet Agnes (Ann) his wife, a strong woman of great insight and herbal knowledge. We meet his brutish father and his siblings. We feel the confines of family and village life.

The “contact tracing” of the spread of plague is very current, as it reminds us of the randomness of infection and the role of dumb luck for those who avoid it.

The loss of a child is always a dreadful blow. Just because one person goes into classic grief does not mean that the other person is not affected just as deeply. Shakespeare the writer uses his personal tragedy to resonate through his most famous tragic play. This is a very rewarding read because it may allow the reader to return to the works of Shakespeare with even greater insight into “the Bard”.

Maggie O’Farrell is a great story teller, blending serious research and imagination to keep you glued to the pages of this remarkable novel.

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