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November Times+ book club with Maggie O’Farrell

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On the evening of Thursday, November 19, Times+ online book club heard from Maggie O’Farrell, winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel Hamnet. Maggie discussed Hamnet and her wider body of work along with answering your questions with Lucy Atkins book critic for The Sunday Times.

Hamnet starts off on a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; a kestrel and its mistress; and a glove maker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of The Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I am, I am, I am and eight novels including: After You’d Gone, My Lover’s Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, Instructions For A Heatwave, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award and This Must Be The Place, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award. She lives in Edinburgh.

Lucy Atkins is an award winning British author and book critic for The Sunday Times. She was a  judge on the Costa Book Awards and is a tutor on the creative writing Masters degree at Oxford University. She has written four novels, most recently the critically acclaimed Magpie Lane, as well as seven non-fiction books, two of which have won national awards. Her books are published internationally and The Night Visitor has been optioned for television.  

You can read Maggie's interview with Alex O'Connell, The Times arts editor here

Exclusive subscriber offer

Hamnet is published by Hachette RRP £20.00. Order the book at a discounted price of £16.99 from Waterstones.com here (valid until December 4, 2020). 

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