Definitely “To Read.” There really is no question on this one. Maggie O’Farrell has done such a brilliant job in Hamnet of reimagining the life of Shakespeare and his family. I dove into this one because, as a book nerd, I was excited at the idea of a historical fiction novel based on Shakespeare, but to be honest this book is so well written, and the narrative so enticing, that I wouldn’t have been able to put it down even if it had no historical context or connection to anything. It’s just an incredible story.
However, knowing that this is a historical novel based loosely on Shakespeare added a whole extra layer of intrigue when reading Hamnet. Though it is entirely a work of fiction, I still felt like O’Farrell developed the characters in such a way that gave dignity and life to historical figures who, especially in the cases of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and his wife, Agnes, have largely been criticized or ignored. I really enjoyed listening to Maggie O’Farrell speak to this in the New York Times Book Review Podcast, and would highly encourage anyone who finishes the book to check out the interview, to better understand O’Farrell’s reasons for making the decisions she did when writing Hamnet.
This is probably my favorite book of the year so far, so I really hope you’ll read it. When you do, be sure to let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Use my bookshop page to find the book from an independent bookstore or publisher HERE
Listen to the New York Book Review Review Podcast with Maggie O’Farrell HERE