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Publisher's Summary

Winner of The Women's Prize for Fiction

New York Times Best Seller

"[An] exceptional winner.... It expresses something profound about the human experience that seems both extraordinarily current and at the same time, enduring." (Martha Lane Fox, Chair of The Women's Prize for Fiction judges)

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

England, 1580. A young Latin tutor - penniless, bullied by a violent father - falls in love with an eccentric young woman: a wild creature who walks her family's estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles on the Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband. His gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when their beloved twins, Hamnet and Judith, are afflicted with the bubonic plague, and, devastatingly, one of them succumbs to the illness.

A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a hypnotic recreation of the story that inspired one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time, Hamnet & Judith is mesmerizing and seductive, an impossible-to-put-down novel from one of our most gifted writers.

Published as Hamnet in the US and the UK.

©2020 Maggie O'Farrell (P)2020 Knopf Canada

What the critics say

"Hamnet & Judith is a beautiful read, a devastating one, intricate, and breathtakingly imaginative. It will stay with me a long time." (Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry)

"What could be more common, over centuries and continents, than the death of a child - and yet Maggie O’Farrell, with her flawless sentences and furious heart, somehow makes it new. This story of remarkable people bereft of their boy will leave you shaking with loss but also the love from which family is spun." (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)

"Love, grief, hope, resilience - the world of this novel is so vivid I could nearly smell the grass in the fields, hear the rain in the gutters. In moments where the story shoots up to heaven I was there, too, grieving with these characters, feeling how lucky we all are to be alive, understanding how desperately we want the people we love to be remembered. It’s without a doubt one of the best novels I’ve ever read." (Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes

What listeners say about Hamnet and Judith

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Amazing

This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read...and I think that it has some historical elements makes it even more fascination. The Raiders voice is captivating and I enjoyed her voice more than I would just reading the book. I could not stop listening to this book. Description and language is mesmerizing.

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Best Book of the Summer

I loved this book - cover to cover... It is tragic and fanciful... a little bit magical... It is about grief and loss and redemption - parental love and the courage to embrace the change left by death... It is about a woman of strength and wisdom... It is worth every minute!!

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Excellent!

Rich text...beautifully performed. As an English teacher it is hard to please me. This novel and performance did not disappoint!

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  • MM
  • 2020-10-03

Enchanting

I loved how the author engaged the senses in her description of life in the 1600s. It was a vivid, poetic, moving story. Really enjoyed the narration as well.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant

It is an awe-inspiring story based on such little knowledge we have of the greatest writer that ever lived! It had me in tears a few times - just brilliant! Beautifully narrated.

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Enjoyed

The narration was perfect for this story. I enjoyed the writing. The story moved at a slow pace at times. I wasnt fond of the main male character meant to be William. At times I found him so wimpy I wanted to stop reading. I was disappointed in the ending. I expected a bit more. I would say the last 1/3 of the book weakened. I expected it to pick up but it did not. The narration kept me hanging in there.

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So boring

Because Shakespeare's life is known, there were no surprises in this book. If you like books with plot, this isn't for you.

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Hamnet versus Hamlet

Dual timeline story of historical fiction that speculates on the life of Hamnet Shakespeare and the events surrounding his life and death. Interesting that the the father is never referred to as Will or Shakespeare. The mother is Agnes but the surname Hathaway never comes up. It becomes clear later if you hadn't already realized from other clues. Scholars have argued about the origin of the name of the Prince and it may or may not be from the boy's name. Overall I found the way the author describes people or places a little trying (his face, his hands , his hair etc. often in threes). The story is an intriguing one and may have been better told in a linear fashion although the dual timeline method helps contrast the birth of the twins and the death of one of them for example. The sudden diversion into a bubonic plague flea journey was a bit like being kidnapped by aliens in the middle of the book although I enjoyed the explanation of how the black death might have been spread around by travel in those days and of course very evocative of our own pandemic times .
I was disappointed by the narrator who had a way too posh BBC accent for my taste. Her attempted voices for some characters, if we can extrapolate from current local accents in the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire area ,were inaccurate, more like a generic northern twang for Bartholomew to give one example.
Certainly no Hilary Mantell but nevertheless an interesting take on a historical mystery and another Hamlet spin off although I prefer the absurd approach of Stoppard. No idea why the book is titled Hamnet in the UK and Hamnet and Judith in North America.

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Lovely Book

This is one of the finest books, audio or otherwise, that I have read in many years. The historical setting, fascinating, characters and compelling story kept me wanting more. The writing was so engaging and vivid and the narration was perfection. I will be looking for other books by O’Farrell.

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Beautiful and detailed

Beautiful and detailed... just a little long and slow at times for this listener...but if you know what you're in for, its a great book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-12-08

Amazing!

This may be my favorite book of all time. The writing was stunning and the story beautiful. The narrator was perfect.