‘A feast for the senses’ is perhaps an overused phrase, but in this case it’s entirely applicable.
Maggie O’Farrell is ready to whisk you away to 1580’s Stratford, where you will follow Agnes (Shakespeare’s wife) and Hamnet (their young son). It is these lives, and the largely domestic sphere they inhabit, that this story is concerned with. O’Farrell focuses on the daily life and goings-on of rural Elizabethan England, and on the experiences of these two characters – a mother facing tragedy, and a young boy suddenly confronted with something huge. Shakespeare himself does not have a leading role in the story, so don’t expect a whole lot of Will!
This is not a cheerful book by any means, but the beauty of the prose makes it delightful to read. It’s a slow book, and a descriptive one, but it is beautifully immersive, and a touching study of familial love and grief. For fans of historical fiction, this is a must-read!
Reviewed by Lucy.