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Hamnet (2020)

de Maggie O'Farrell

MembrosResenhasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
1,2038711,930 (4.3)252
"A thrilling departure: a short, piercing, deeply moving novel about the death of Shakespeare's 11 year old son Hamnet--a name interchangeable with Hamlet in 15th century Britain--and the years leading up to the production of his great play. England, 1580. A young Latin tutor--penniless, bullied by a violent father--falls in love with an extraordinary, 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 with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when his beloved young son succumbs to bubonic plague. 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 masterpieces of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down--a magnificent departure from one of our most gifted novelists"--… (mais)
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I fully expected to love this book, and I did love the first half. The last 1/3 drug on, and bordered on painful. I don't regret reading it, but couldn't wholeheartedly recommend it. ( )
  k0sborn | May 11, 2021 |
The writing here is beautiful, and there are stretches of this story that make for engrossing historical fiction, but there were for me much longer stretches where this was not engrossing in the least, where it felt like 100 other books of the plague years. Shakespeare was not in any way a meaningful character through most of the story. While I am sure he was saddened by the death of his only son, he barely knew the child and seemed pretty uninterested in him in life. And Agnes....sigh... is there some covenant among historical writers that the only way in which a female character is allowed to be interesting is if she is a witchy herbalist? Because other than her gift for clabbering together a good poultice and her availability for a little slap and tickle with the Bard during his week or two per year in Stratford Agnes mostly seems trapped and weak and sad, which I imagine describes many of the women of that time.

In the end it felt like O'Farrell was attempting an examination of grief, but it did not feel like a terribly authentic or moving one. Might Shakespeare have used the name of the dead son he met a couple of times as an homage? Sure. That sounds reasonable. But there is nothing else in Hamlet that ties to anything in this story of Hamnet. Sure the play is a little about grief, but it is more about melancholy, uncertainty, the equal rightness and wrongness of action and inaction, and the physical and moral corruption of leaders and of the state. This book seemed to minimize that work, and that is a damn shame.

I know everyone loved this, and it certainly was a pretty read. I enjoyed it well enough while I was reading for the most part though it dragged, especially the first third. For me it was a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. If people are interested in looking at the grief of great men, go grab Lincoln in the Bardo. That told me something about grief and about the mantle of accomplishment, of being a great man and also just a man. I feel like O'Farrell was sort of trying for that here, and she whiffed. ( )
  Narshkite | May 9, 2021 |
(23) I really liked 'The Hand that First held Mine,' by this author which I read recently and so requested this (mentioned as her best, perhaps) from the library. It was not as good as I expected, but not bad either. This is an imagined historical fiction of William Shakespeare's early years and family and his son Hamnet (which is I guess a version of Hamlet) who died as a boy. The author fictionalizes Shakespeare's wife who potentially was a healer with a power to commune with ghosts and foretell the future. The plague comes to the family through a package teeming with infected glass beads and the playwright's children sicken and his son dies. This is not a spoiler as we are told this at the opener despite the fact that the beginning of the book is from the boy Hamnet's POV.

The writing is very similar to Geraldine Brooks's 'The Year of Wonders' (about the plague) and 'March.' Somewhat evocative of time and place, but too few contextual details to really transport like the best historical fiction. Instead the time period just seemed to be a back-drop for the story of an unusual courtship and marriage. The author seemed much more interested in Agnes (Shakespeare's 'wise-woman' wife) than any other character and seemed to have a bit of trouble settling down to exactly what she wanted to write about. In the end Hamnet and the creating of the play 'Hamlet,' seemed tacked on and almost besides the point. I had a hard time feeling real grief for Agnes. My favorite part of the book was the story of the monkey, the flea, the glass blower in Murano and how the plague came to the little house in Stratford. I guess given what we are all living through - a bit of Renaissance epidemiology seems the more interesting story.

I would read this author again - she straddles the line between genre and literary fiction nicely and her writing style seems just what I need at times. ( )
  jhowell | May 4, 2021 |
Hamnet’s twin sister Judith has been taken ill, one minute they were playing with the cat’s new kittens, and the next she had felt ill and gone to bed. And now even the eleven year old Hamnet can see that she is not well at all and that he needs to find an adult who will know what to do. He goes from the small house that he shares with his mother and sisters (his father usually being away in London) to the larger house next door where his grandparents live, but both houses are unaccustomedly empty. His mother is miles away gathering honey from the bees that she keeps near her childhood home. And meanwhile Judith lies alone ...

’Judith is lying on the bed and the walls appear to be bulging inwards, then flexing back. In, out, in, out. The posts around her parents’ bed, in the corner, writhe and twist like serpents; the ceiling above her ripples, like the surface of a lake; her hands seem at once too close and then very far away. The line where the white of the plasterwork meets the dark wood of the joists shimmers and refracts. Her face and chest are hot, burning, covered with slick sweat, but her feet are ice-cold. She shivers, once , twice, a full convulsion, and sees the walls bend towards her, closing in, then pulling away. To block out the walls, the serpentine bedposts, the moving ceiling, she shuts her eyes.’

Hamnet imagines the story of Shakespeare’s family left behind in Stratford-upon-Avon while he wins success in London. His young twins Hamnet and Judith, his older daughter Susanna, and above all his unconventional wife (here Agnes). The narrative moves effortlessly backwards and forwards in time, with the appearance of the plague in Shakespeare’s house as the pivotal point. This is a wonderful portrait of what it might have been like to live in late sixteenth century Stratford. But above all this is a masterful portrait of parental love and grief.

Highly recommended. ( )
  SandDune | Apr 29, 2021 |
This is a beautiful devastating story of love, family bonds - good and bad - and loss. It is also a story worth every minute of the slow careful reading required to take in all of the rich language in the telling. I took 3 days to read the last 15 pages because it felt as if I needed a very quiet and slow walk to the ending. ( )
  Mnpose | Apr 21, 2021 |
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He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone. 

Hamlet, Act IV, scene v
Hamnet and Hamlet are in fact the same name, entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

—Steven Greenblatt, "The Death of Hamnet and the Making of Hamlet," New York Review of Books (October 21, 2004)
I am dead:
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. . . draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story

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Agnes believes her position, as new daughter-in-law, to be ambiguous, somewhere between apprentice and hen.
The branches of the forest are so dense you cannot feel the rain.
There will be no going back. No undoing of what was laid out for them. The boy has gone and the husband will leave and she will stay and the pigs will need to be fed every day and time runs only one way.
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Maybe not, says her mother.
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"A thrilling departure: a short, piercing, deeply moving novel about the death of Shakespeare's 11 year old son Hamnet--a name interchangeable with Hamlet in 15th century Britain--and the years leading up to the production of his great play. England, 1580. A young Latin tutor--penniless, bullied by a violent father--falls in love with an extraordinary, 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 with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when his beloved young son succumbs to bubonic plague. 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 masterpieces of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down--a magnificent departure from one of our most gifted novelists"--

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