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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020
The Sunday Times best seller

Two extraordinary people. A love that draws them together. A loss that threatens to tear them apart.

On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker's son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

©2020 Maggie O'Farrell (P)2020 Headline Publishing Group Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A thing of shimmering wonder." (David Mitchell)

"Richly sensuous...something special." (The Sunday Times)

What listeners say about Hamnet

Average Customer Ratings
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Beautifully written and read

A great story with very fine historical detail and beautiful language. Highly recommended. Excellent reading.

5 people found this helpful

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Savour this one, I wanted it to go on and on!

Memorable, emotional and beautifully written and performed, I absolutely loved it and you will too!

4 people found this helpful

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Gripping, tragic, beautiful

What a remarkable talent is Maggie O’Farrell to be able to re-envisage the life and times of Shakespeare and his family and the pain that each one bears at the loss of Hamnet.. memorable!

1 person found this helpful

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Breathtaking

Beautifully written and beautifully read. O’Farrell creates a textured world so real you can could almost reach out and touch it.

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my new favourite

beautifully written. she has a way with words (and the things that she notices in the world). The narration was just so perfect. loved every minute

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Beautiful Story

Loved the story. Beautiful emotions. The narrator was easy to listen to but at times sounded like she was running ine sentence into another. Overall well done.

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superb in all respects

I finished this last week and can't stop thinking about it. It's a marvellous story, beautifully written, and narrated so well. I loved it. Although a fictionalised account of Shakespeare's home life, it felt like a really good approximation, and based on good historical material. An enriching read.

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One of the best books I've listened to this year.

Donovan's narration was very very good. you won't regret reading this book if you want a good story

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At her best

This is Maggie O’Farrell at her best - every sense is singing. Only such an extraordinary storyteller could dare to write about the bard himself and manage it with such veracity and luminosity. Daisy Donovan’s narration is seamless.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-06-2020

comments

loved it. great narration. read with clarity and great understanding of the plot. bring alive the characters. a great job done. thanks.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jane F. Clifton
  • 31-07-2020

Superb listening

One of the best listens, so far. Daisy Donovan's precision delivery of Maggie O'Farrell's wonderful imaging of this story is a singular pleasure in these troubled times of modern plague.

1 person found this helpful

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  • DFK
  • 23-11-2020

Good book, but not as great as expected

The raves about this book made me expect more. The comparisons to Hilary Mantel’s trilogy made me expect more. But then, much is known about Cromwell’s history and exploits, the politics of Henry VIII’s court, his wives, etc. Not much is known about the characters in Hamnet. They existed. One of them wrote a lot of plays, which are considered among the greatest literature. Hamnet died (this shouldn’t be a spoiler, given all the reviews and what is known from history). But little is known about Shakespeare’s wife, and really not so much is known about him, as a person, who is never named in this book - was this an idea derived from Mantel’s frequent “he” when referring to Cromwell? Here, if you came from a place where they never heard of Hamlet or Shakespeare, you wouldn’t know who the playwright is in this story. O’Farrell writes beautifully, but something is lacking in the characters. The book is really a fictitious imagining of Agnes (Anne Hathaway). And there is a lot of imagining. - because we really know so little about her. I was absorbed and enjoyed the narration.

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  • Leaf Green
  • 20-07-2020

Narrator fights writing and wins (sadly)

A very strange choice of voice for the narration, and style of speaking. Style-wise, the pace is so fast, that the poetry of the writing can't be absorbed. The voice is bland, modern, all surface, lacking in depth, more suited to a consumer affairs or news programme, than this work. This work needs more room to breathe and a voice that registers the deep feeling of life, rather than rushes on endlessly to find the next word in a shopping list. The writing itself is most interesting, fleshing out the possible family life, domestic life, of the women in one Will Shakespeare's life and throwing out suggestions about his writing. I will read this novel myself rather than listen to a narration which takes so much away from the writing.

64 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-05-2020

Good story but...

I’m afraid I couldn’t get along with the narration at all - nothing wrong with it as a performance but completely clashed with the ‘voice’ of the book and made me wish I’d just read it instead of listened to it, when everything else I’ve had on audible I’ve felt the opposite

40 people found this helpful

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  • DartmoorDiva
  • 27-04-2020

Awful narrator

I’ve only managed about half an hour of this book and I’m giving up. It really hasn’t gripped me in terms of the writing, plus the narrator has such a modern voice it just doesn’t sound at all right for the period in which this book is set. I keep coming across audiobooks with poor narration, it’s very frustrating.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-07-2020

Great story. Disappointing narrator.

A well-written story about grief and loss, that is let down by a narrator who appears not to have given it the close reading it deserves before embarking upon it’s telling. The lines are loaded with emotion, but the narrator rushes through them like an actor doing the first read-through of a script - which is ironic, given the novel’s poignant connection with Shakespeare’s masterpiece and it’s protagonist.

26 people found this helpful

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  • Sarah F
  • 09-07-2020

over hasty narration

Great book. HUGE issue with its narration. The narrator does a good job of delivering dialogue. However am truly baffled that whoever directed / produced this audiobook did not ask her to stop dashing her way manically (although admittedly with decent enunciation) through everything else. The prose needed a bit of room to breathe. I even tried the slower setting but it just sounded as if the narrator had taken a sedative so went back to the galloping. Not surprised to see that many others have made similar comments. Having listened to dozens of audio books this is the speediest prose i have ever encountered!

21 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-04-2020

A wonderful book

I loved this book. Every word was perfect. Elizabethan life was portrayed in fascinating detail. The grief felt (differently) by each character was detailed with such searing clarity that I was often brought to tears. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

16 people found this helpful

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  • bookylady
  • 28-04-2020

Absolutely brilliant.

A 5* novel if ever there was one. Maggie O'Farrell brings to life of the Shakespeare family in Stratford-on-Avon before William moves permanently to London in a powerful, moving story of love, loyalty, being different, having dreams, family strife, ghosts and the ups and downs of married life. When the Shakespeare's beloved son Hamnet dies of the plague, William cannot cope with the loss and removes himself more and more from family life. When his wife hears that he has written a play about their son she travels to London to confront Shakespeare about it. Brilliantly written and narrated. I felt as if I was right there in Tudor times, living with a family confronting its own demons and aspirations.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Alison
  • 14-07-2020

Fact and fiction interwoven

Knowing very little about William Shakespeare’s personal life - his marriage, his children, his childhood, his family, I was immediately enthralled by this fascinating tale - part fact, predominantly fiction and left wondering exactly where one began and the other ended. Maggie O’Farrell has built upon the information we know about Shakespeare’s family life and created a vivid and enthralling picture of his home, family and background in Stratford. All without once mentioning his name! Women form the backbone of this story and the vivid reality of their hard life – birthing, healing, caring for children, washing, preparing food, managing a household, holding together home, husband and family and through their voice creates a narrative relevant for all times. Although clearly rooted in a 16th century background this timeless story has something to speak to for all times about love, loss, heartbreak, longing, despair and hope. I loved the performance by Daisy Donovan, bringing it easily to life, not only in my ear but in my minds eye. Well worth listening to.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-04-2020

Loved this book

I absolutely loved this book, I found it by chance and having enjoyed Maggie o Farrell before I thought I’d give it a go, not a subject matter I knew anything about but really captivating, well read and gripping.

8 people found this helpful

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  • SazMcD
  • 12-08-2020

Lovely, evocative story

I hesitated about buying this audible book, as several reviews commented negatively about Daisy Donovan’s reading of it, and the right reader is extremely important with a spoken story. I’m not sure if her accents were correct for Stratford upon Avon, and she occasionally mispronounced words, but all in all, she reads it well, and the criticism is misplaced. The story itself transports you back in time, and you can feel the ambience of 16th century England. Life was more precarious then, and no one expected to raise all the children born to them to adulthood. Even so, it is a heartbreaking tale, and one which holds you to the final moment. Beautifully written, it engages you with all the main characters.

7 people found this helpful

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