In Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, this highly regarded author delivers another slamdunk novel. Hamnet is her first venture into historical fiction. She creates the ethos of rural, Elizabethan England within the story of grief-stricken domesticity, as an unpretentious family deals with tragedy and devastating loss. There is an etheral thread to O’Farrell’s prose, as if beneath the everyday doings of the family, another world exists, one in which the supernatural explores its own reality unknown and unseen to human sensibilities and sensorary perception. The central figure of the novel is Agnes, Hamnet’s mother. His father, initially a struggling playwright in London, is hardly ever home. O’Farrell never mentions him by name (but we know who the man is and will become.) Agnes is regarded suspiciously by her neighbors, and they create a myth around her. Agnes is an unusual figure, a woman striding into the forest with her kestrel on her wrist. She is a noted herbalist, a healer, and these gifts add to her notoriety.

A thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking novel. Highly recommend you read this intriguing book.


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