Thursday, June 24, 2021

Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell: Absolutely Top-Tier Literary Fiction

So yeah, everyone is right: Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell is an unbelievably powerful piece of art  — top-tier literary fiction. 

I was sitting outside on my balcony reading the end of this novel, and the sun had gone behind the building across the street, and the temperature was dropping quickly, and with about five pages to go, I realized I was shivering uncontrollably, and I wasn't sure if it was because I was cold or if it was because the ending of this novel is so affecting, so finely rendered, so dramatically powerful. Either way, I couldn't move until it was over. 

But the rest of the novel that leads to this ending is brilliant, as well. This, as it's subtitled, is a novel of the plague — but specifically, it's about Shakespeare (who is never named as Shakespeare) and his wife, Agnes (Anne?) and their twins, Hamnet and Judith, one of whom dies of the plague.

We get alternating stories about "the Latin tutor" and his courtship of Agnes, and then the real-time story after they're married and one of the twins is dying. I loved the universality of this story. Of course, the pandemic aspect is pretty relatable these days. But also, this is a novel about family, parenthood, love and loyalty, and the inspiration behind great art. Again, the last scene in this novel, as Agnes is watching the play inspired by her son, is mesmerizing. I was reading as if in a trance. 

I can't recommend this book more highly. 

No comments:

Post a Comment