top of page
  • Writer's pictureSecretWorldOfaBook

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Updated: May 18, 2020

Published : 31st March 2020

Publisher : Tinder Press

Format : Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio

Genre : Historical Fiction


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.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief.

It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker's son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves.

Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.


My Review - HAPPY EASTER...

First off, thank you so much to Anne Cater and Headline for this absolutely stunning hardback copy of Hamlet. Once I started I literally could not put it down.

Beautifully written, addictive and utterly consuming, I found this story a pure pleasure to read.

The story starts with this note from the author...

Historical note

In the 1580s, a couple living in Henley Street, Stratford, had three children: Susanna, then Hamnet and Judith, who were twins.

The boy, Hamnet, died in 1596, aged eleven.

Four years or so later, the father wrote a play called Hamlet.

Set in 1596 the story opens with a young boy, Hamnet. He is desperately trying to find a family member, a grandparent, a sibling or better still his own mother. His twin sister has taken ill to her bed and he fears the worst, she does not look good.

The only relative he finds is his nasty pedantic grandfather who has, by the way he holds himself already taken in to much ale. Hamnets father has warned him many times to stay away from his grandfather when he is in these dark moods but Hamnet sees no other choice and tries to raise alarm with him. Before he can speak he has been hit over the head with a heavy cup so he runs away, blood across his forehead before his grandfather can hurt him any more.

Finding no one to help, Hamnet takes himself back up to his sister to lye in the bed beside her and wait for his mother to return home. Judith is looking even more unwell with large lumps appearing at her throat and she has a terrible fever. He is worried she has buboes and he doesn't know what he should do for the best so he waits by her side.

The story moves back and forth to Hamnet and Judith with chapters in-between about their mother, Agnes and how she met their father and her life building up to the point where she finds her child at home extremely ill.

Agnes has a gift. She has the sight to be able to look into a persons soul and see what they are thinking, feeling and also can see their future.

Agnes has always foresaw two children standing over her as she dies in the future so when she has twins after already giving birth to a daughter previous she is always waiting for something to happen, something that will take one of her babies away.

William is Agnes husband. They end up living in a dwelling built onto the side of his parents house but he does not get along with his father and Agnes ends up sending him away to London to find work to stop him becoming depressed.

She had no idea that he would be away more the he was home with her and their children.

Agnes brings up the children almost single handed and copes perfectly until something completely heartbreaking happens and it shatters her world turning it upside down. She can no longer get out of bed, can no longer help the local town people with her herbs and potions and finds herself a shell of the woman she used to be, leaving her two daughters to keep everything going.

I can not stress enough how the words on these pages completely take you over and send you back to a time in your mind where everything was so different.

Agnes was my favourite character in this story, she is such a strong woman who puts herself last all the time for the good of her family regardless if it breaks her heart or not.

As you get over half way through the story your heart goes out to her as she goes from being a woman who does it all to a broken shell with a dark cloud of depression following her everywhere she goes.

At the point in the book where the tragedy happens I found myself teary eyed looking up from the pages and gazing at my own children, trying to imagine how she must have felt.

This was definitely an emotional read and I found myself really hoping for the happy ending I so feel that Agnes and her daughters deserved.

Why I Loved It

I Love how this story has a background that is based on truth.

At the end of the book the author explains what is fictional and what is real and that made the story even more special to me, to know that these characters that I had fallen in love with and had allowed to consume me for that short time actually lived and breathed was amazing to read. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out that William was actually William Shakespere... I know, I know I did not really know anything about the play Hamlet and didn't put two and two together, I now know about the play and find it even more special knowing it was based upon his son.

I did like how the story ended although I could have carried on reading about Agnes and her life for a lot longer, this is most definitely a story that you will continue to think about long after you have closed on the last page.

I adore historical fiction and can say that this is one of my most favourite reads, it takes a rare talent to be able to make you see everything played out in your mind as you are reading the words on the page and Maggie manages this perfectly.

The story seams itself together in perfect order, You will be completely enthralled by these magical words that fill the page and play out before you so that it feels as if you are truly there in the 1500s alongside Agnes and experiencing everything that she sees and feels.

I Highly recommend this read, Maggie o'Farrell has become one of my must read authors and any books I see on the shelf with her name are an auto buy for me now :)





Purchase Links

Waterstones ( Signed Edition )



Meet the author

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I AM, I AM, I AM, and eight novels:

AFTER YOU’D GONE, MY LOVER’S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award,  THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and HAMNET.

She lives in Edinburgh.

Connect with the author




Books by this author

I Am I Am I Am

The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox

This Must Be The Place

Claire's Similar reads

The Binding by Bridget Collins

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

The Botanist's Daughter by Kayte Nunn

All books that I have added all include a purchase link when clicked on.

I hope you enjoyed reading my review.

Click the links below to take a peek at my social pages

👉🏻 Instagram

👉🏻 Twitter

31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page