Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

HAMNET by Maggie O’Farrell

As we live in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, this novel by Maggie O’Farrell takes us back more than 500 years to England at the time of the Bubonic Plague. No vaccinations here, yet the local town people watch their neighbors and friends come down with the deadly disease. The story hones in on one family with three children, an older sister and two young twins, a boy and a girl. At first, it seemed as if the twin girl had been struck down with the plague, but she is to survive and much to the devastation of his parents, it is the boy who succumbs to the deadly disease. What follows is one of the most powerful descriptions of the grieving process that I have ever read in the many novels which I have come across which deal with death and dying.

Most probably if you were drawn to reading this book, you probably know that Hamnet is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In this story, Hamnet’s father is a playwright who spends most of his time in London writing and producing plays. The father is devastated as is the mother by the death of their son. This leads to the writing and the production of the immortal story of Hamlet. While the storyline is original and quite captivating, it is the skill and beautiful writing of Maggie O’Farrell, which, although slow at times, mostly holds our attention and makes this a worthwhile literary experience.

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