• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

The interconnectedness of the characters and the details of household life and power structures of the time period were wonderful and the standout elements of the book to me.

O'Farrell, who has written many books I've loved, here tackles a novel of the plague and a story loosely based on Shakespeare's marriage, family, and work.


This was a relatively slow climb toward a societal calamity (in the form of the plague) and personal tragedy (in the form of the family's loss of a child to the plague).


I wondered if the timing of this reading experience was going to be enjoyable--reading a book about the plague during a global pandemic might not be ideal. But O'Farrell has crafted a story that is primarily about a family--their hopes, dreams, and the sometimes heartbreaking limitations and sobering realities of each person within it. The interconnectedness between strangers and family members and the world was one of the most interesting aspects for me.


The book started off at a measured pace. The details of the time, household life, and gender, vocation, and familial power structures were wonderful and the standout elements of the book to me. O'Farrell imagined Agnes, wife to John (the fictionalized William Shakespeare character) as an independent, witchy, strong, and appealing female character.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

What O'Farrell writes, I generally adore--and her range is incredible. I loved I Am, I Am, I Am, and I really liked The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Instructions for a Heatwave, and This Must Be the Place. (The Hand that First Held Mine and After You'd Gone are both on my to-read list.)