When the plague rears its ugly head in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Shakespeare household is thrown into disarray. First it is eleven-year-old Judith who falls ill, but it is her twin brother Hamnet who succumbs. His mother is inconsolable and as for his father, he is off in London, writing his plays.
Beautifully imagined and exquisitely descriptive, and with its evocative accounts of 16th century daily life, this story of love and loss is an intimate portrayal of a family, with Agnes (whom history calls Anne) at its heart. [Larger font]
Absorbing read, and general agreement as to the writer's consummate skill with prose and complicated characterisation. Some readers felt the story required a second reading to dispel some initial confusion.
Everyone in our group just LOVED this book, and some read it twice! A talented author, using very expressive language, who brought the story alive. We could walk the streets, and smell the smells!
A great read for the first book of the year. Satisfying storyline, characterisations, and descriptive passages. Too descriptive for some at times! But then several members looked out other books by the author, and searched the internet and RNZ for interviews and reviews.
Several members were confused by the layout, with no chapter numbers or headings, and the altering of real names. Others thought the text was descriptive and lyrical. We all thought we would appreciate it more at a second reading.
A really thought-provoking read. A number of themes including family violence, a pandemic, marriage, housing, life and death. We loved the poetic writing style.
Everybody loved this book - best of the year.
Polarised opinions. Some really disliked the concept of inventing a story for a historical figure, some found the writing too discursive. On the other hand, some loved it, and found it an enjoyable riff on elements of the most famous literary figure of all!
Virtually all the group loved this book - several had read it before but enjoyed the writing and historical content just as much the 2nd time around - a real winner!
Well-written and easy to read except we didn't enjoy the jumping of generations and time-frames. Interesting reading about life in 1500s but we had difficulty relating the story to the actual play "Hamlet".
We all loved it, tears shed and loved the historical context.
Enjoyable but rather dense in places.
We all loved this book - great story (very sad), brilliantly told, which made the environment of centuries ago feel as real as modern day. Highest recommendation.
Members were intrigued by the transmission of the plague. Beautiful descriptive writing. The book was enjoyed by most but not all.
Everyone really enjoyed this book. The description of of Elizabethan England a highlight. All agreed Maggie O'Farrell is a great writer.
Everyone enjoyed this book, the descriptions were excellent. Hamnet's death was tear jerking. It was interesting that Shakespeare's name was never mentioned.
General agreement on the pleasure of reading this book. All enjoyed O'Farrell's style, observations of the human and natural world, comparisons with today's Covid pandemic, and an insight to life in Shakespeare's time. All will read more of this author.
The members loved the book with its beautiful descriptions. They wished that the story was true rather than fiction. Made us think about life in the 1600s.
Despite taking a while to get into, members felt the book was a worthwhile read. Characterisation was particularly good, as was the detailed description of how life might have been in Elizabethan Stratford. It was quite intense, but members felt that the handling of the intense grief felt by Agnes was very moving.
We all enjoyed this book. The sense of place, descriptions, and metaphors were impressively vivid.
Most members loved this book, both the style and the content. Others did not enjoy the story, feeling the characters lacked development. The majority totally endorsed the writing and the content.
We all loved this book. The style of writing was mesmerising and although it is a sad book, it covered the topics of death and grief in a beautiful and moving prose. We were all sad to finish, many of us couldn't put it down, even when doing the vaccuming!!
In spite of all the amazing reviews, our group didn't really like the book. Too flowery, hard to believe and needed editing.
One of our highest scoring books - people enjoyed the story, the Shakespeare link ( albeit fiction) and the style of writing.
More than half of our group had already read this book but we all re-read it. Such is the brilliance of this book. What a stunner. Led to all sorts of discussion: plague, characterisation, history, family dynamics - it had it all.
A book which divided some of the members, including the one who recommended it - who scored it very poorly!! Others thought it was well-written and gave some insight to the late 16th century - the time of Shakespeare.