Book Review: Hamnet

The source of Shakespeare’s Passion?

Hamnet is the most captivating and well crafted novel I’ve read for a very long time. O’Farrell’s wonderful tale of love, and seduction, passion and death, myth and medicinals, plague and playhouses in 16th century England grabbed me from the first page, and would not let me go at the last. I will carry Agnes, the tutor, Susanna, Judith, Bartholomew, Mary, John, and most especially Hamnet with me forever. This story is wrenching, insightful, and quite possibly true as source material for the greatest play in the English language. We can only speculate what might have been had young Hamnet lived to follow his famous father. Would those plays have entered the canon? Or would the famous father not felt such overpowering grief to write them? It’s a question that perhaps only young Hamnet himself might answer. This simple, unread and unschooled eleven-year old may have been the catalyst for the torrent of literary marvels his father obsessed himself with, his death at such a tender age awakening the muse that brought us a flood of immortal works. Five stars only because there aren’t ten to give!

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