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Reading Hamnet and Peaking into the life of Shakespeare

Award-winning author Maggie O'Farrell's new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Often when we leave behind our loved ones we rarely feel the helplessness and agony that they go through. But what about being on the receiving end for once? It surely is not a fun place to be in. We pass through the phases of denial, loss, the realization of the harsh reality that the person is gone and no matter what we do, they will never come back. Trying to cope with the new reality while our lives change forever is like living and accepting that a void will always be there within us.

No other book in recent times drowned me into sorrow and grief and made me feel all the pain that a mother, a father, a twin sister as they lost their brother. With pure art of storytelling, Maggie O'Farrell’s book Hamnet made my heart ache more and more every time I turned pages. Being a historical novel, the time period of the novel is so well developed giving details of every single thing from the society to the beliefs, to the dresses without losing the original plot. As I read the book, I traveled down the memory lane to the English class where my teacher was painstakingly explaining Hamlet to us. The sheer resemblance between the two almost fits into each other like a perfect jigsaw puzzle.

Such is the beauty of the narrative that I wanted to cross all the boundaries and hug Agnes. The relationship between Shakespeare and his lesser-known wife, Agnes is like the shadow and light of one person. While one took inspiration and attempted to immortalize their lost son, the other one slowly faded deeper into the darkness.

This book is a magnificent piece of art and my heart found its home among the pages of this book.

Hamnet is published by Tinder Press and can be purchased here. (India only).


Drawing on Maggie O'Farrell's long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare's most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley Street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

Award-winning author Maggie O'Farrell's new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.


Maggie O'Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones' 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels - the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss, and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.

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