“Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell


Thanks to Headline and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

My husband and I have this thing where if we come across something amazing, be it a movie, song, book or even a person, we call it a “Crocodile Rock”. A Crocodile Rock (named after the Elton John song obvs) is something or someone truly amazing. God tier if you will. The Count of Monte Cristo is a Crocodile Rock. Keanu Reeves is a Crocodile Rock. Mozart’s Dies Irae is a Crocodile Rock. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is a Crocodile Rock. 

You get the concept. 

In terms of books, I have my own personal categorisation, which is whether a book is a “Song of Achilles”. Now if you’ve read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, it’s essentially a book that makes you cry so much you want to curl into ball and die, whilst soaking your pillow with your heartbroken tears. The only books I have thus far put in this category are The Song of Achilles (I swear that book gave me a sinus infection) and The Dark Tower VII. Think the ending of Atonement level of sads. 

Anyway, there is a new book in the club! And that book is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell which tells the story of Shakespeare’s family, focusing particularly on his wife Agnes and their children. Agnes is an standout heroine and we see her at two main stages of her life, as a young woman before and soon after marriage, and just over a decade later. Agnes is a bit of square peg in a round hole in the community in which they live. I really loved her personality and her strength of character and the witchy and supernatural aspects to her character were portrayed really well without ever becoming hokey.  

The writing in this book is pure class. It’s up there with Jess Kidd and Diane Setterfield. Gorgeous, beautiful wordsmithery that spins off the page and reminds you of the sheer pleasure and magic of reading. At times there was an element of otherworldliness which contrasted with the Elizabethan setting of the story and left me questioning what was real and what was fantasy. 

I felt so invested in the characters and anxious for their safety, it’s one of those books where you really root for the characters. Knowing a little of the history behind the book meant I knew of some of the events that were likely to happen but it was like watching The Lion King and deep down you hope this time, just this time, maybe Mufasa wont die. I felt like my heart had been cut out at the end of this book.  

This is a book about survival, love, motherhood and the unbreakable bonds of family and it is pretty much perfect – just remember the tissues. 

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