Hamnet Shakespeare died at age 11, but scarcely anything was recorded about the boy’s life. Through her poignant and lyrical storytelling, Maggie O’Farrell breathes life into this long-forgotten tale. I started the book with hesitation, not wanting to be overwhelmed by the tragedy of a boy’s early death. I am glad I read it–the book’s dual timelines, the adjectives in groups of three, and the lush picture the author paints–I enjoyed them all. It’s just such a great way to imagine the everyday life of Hamnet and his family.
Just when I got into into the romantic story of 16th century England, lines like “Stay indoors until the pestilence has passed..” rang true and familiar to the issues we face even today. Even though the line referred to the summer of 1596, it seemed relatable in the summer of 2020, the year the book was released.
With this book, the author gives us a glimpse into what private family life was like in the glover’s house in Henley Street, and how the tragic events of August 1596 might have played out. She also traces the way the Plague made its way through a glassmaker in Murano, a cabin boy on a ship who is fascinated by a monkey to all the way to a seamstress in Stratford upon Avon. Reading the book took me back to my visit to Shakeaspeare’s town.
A visit to Stratford Upon Avon in the spring is a feast for your imagination and your senses. You can take in the rich history and gain a unique view into the life of one of our greatest poets and playwrights. Along the way, you can enjoy the most beautiful blooms.