One of our greatest living novelists resurrects the short life of Hamnet Shakespeare, in this lyrically written and emotionally devastating account of the Bard’s only son. Utterly immersive and convincing, Hamnet is a poignant period tale that not only shines a light on an oft-neglected area of Shakespearean history but speaks to wider themes of grief and loss with impeccable poise and unflinching honesty.
"Not enough people know that Shakespeare had a son called Hamnet. And yet he was so important. Without Hamnet’s early death at the age of 11 we wouldn’t have the plays Hamlet or Twelfth Night," reflected Maggie O'Farrell as she began her conversation with Festival director Peter Florence at Hay Festival Digital last month. "Biographies often give Hamnet just a brief mention and follow it with remarks about the high rates of infant mortality at the time, as if it wasn’t so important, as if he wasn’t grieved. I just don't believe that was true."
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Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I am, I am, I am, and eight novels: After You'd Gone, My Lover's Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, Instructions for a Heatwave, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award, This Must Be The Place, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and Hamnet. She lives in Edinburgh.
Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.
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