Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Review: Hamnet

Hamnet

Hamnet
By Maggie O’Farrell
Vintage, 9781984898876, May 2021, 320pp.

The Short of It:

Did you know that Hamnet and Hamlet are one in the same?

The Rest of It:

Maggie O’Farrell wanted to give a voice to the boy we knew so little about. Hamnet, the son of William Shakespeare, who died at the age of eleven. The thing is, there is no record of Hamnet’s cause of death, anywhere. His death is believed to be caused by the plague, but no where is this confirmed. In O’Farrell’s novel, the way Hamnet dies is quite different from what you’d expect. Cracking open that first page of a book titled HAMNET, and especially since the author wanted nothing more than to give a voice to this boy, you’d expect the story to be all about Hamnet, but instead, it’s about his mother, Agnes and really motherhood in general.

As I was reading this book, I fell into the flow of the writing. It seemed poetic to me. I lingered here and there because of how melodious the words were as they rolled off the page. This was, dare I say it, a pleasant read even though it’s about death, the plague, and grief.

Telling us about Hamnet, through the grief of his mother was an interesting choice. Powerful at times, but there was a tiny touch of magical realism (in my opinion) that took me out of the narrative for a minute and I was left reading that section over and over again to make sense of it and to consider why the author chose to go that route.

We discussed this for my book club. I’d say that most liked it a lot, some loved it, a couple weren’t impressed. I loved the writing but honestly,  I expected more of Hamnet and his famous father. William Shakespeare is never named in the story. He’s the boy’s father, the Latin tutor, and eventually the playwright. It’s not until the very end that you are even introduced to his craft. I will say that the ending was quite thoughtful and a touch sad.

This is a book that will stay with me, even though it left me wanting more.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Nutshell

Nutshell

Nutshell
By Ian McEwan
Anchor Books, 9780525431947, May 2017, 224pp.

The Short of It:

A clever take on Hamlet as told by a fetus.

The Rest of It:

You don’t need to be familiar with Hamlet in order to enjoy Nutshell but it certainly helps.

Trudy leaves her husband John for his brother, Claude. Together, Trudy and Claude come up with a plan to murder John. The house they occupy is quite valuable. With John out-of-the-way, they could potentially make quite a bit of money. But their plan is not a secret to Trudy’s unborn child. The child is fiercely loyal to his mother and somewhat loyal to his paternal father, John, Mostly because he cannot stand the vile Claude.

This is not a new idea. Movies like Look Who’s Talking have provided platforms for the unborn to voice their opinions but in Nutshell, Trudy and John’s child is very well-spoken, a wine connoisseur (due to his mother’s affinity for drink) and hilarious with his high-brow take on the dim-witted plan these two have hatched.

Nutshell is very literary and clever and superbly written. I’ve read many of McEwan’s books and all of them have been good, with Atonement being my favorite. However, Nutshell was very enjoyable. It was a book club pick and many in the group agreed that it was humorous in its own way, but some felt it was a little over-the-top with its pretentiousness. I didn’t mind that part of it and had no trouble suspending my disbelief over the fetus telling the story, but the scheme these two come up was riddled with holes from the beginning so believability in that regard is non-existent.

Have you read it? I think some readers are intimidated by McEwan and if that’s the case, I recommend Nutshell because it’s not as heavy as some of his other books.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.