By Megan Thomas

What a truly remarkable book – the only issue is trying to keep reading through the tears.

Devastating and beautiful, Maggie O’Farrell’s historical fiction which imagines the life of Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, who died aged 11 in 1596 and after whom one of his most renowned plays Hamlet was written, has earned its place on my list of all time favourite reads.

Very little is known about Shakespeare and his life, other than birth and death records, and so he remains a bit of a literary mystery despite how prolific his work is to this day. But Maggie O’Farrell has used unwavering empathy and delicate prose to offer us a fictional but possible window into this complicated family’s world in Stratford Upon Avon.

If you’ve read it, did you prefer the first half or the second half? I found I adored the first half because of how O’Farrell didn’t miss a single brush stroke when painting the picture of their lives, but also found the second half more moving than any book I’ve previously read. Perhaps the feelings in the second half are made possible by the descriptions in the first. However, I’ve met people that found the second half too emotionally draining. I suspect it’s a matter of when you read it, and think that even though it wasn’t exactly poolside summer reading, whizzing through the second half on holiday made it feel less drawn out.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles
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