Book Notes | 'Hamnet'
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is an historical novel that imagines the courtship and early domestic life of William Shakespeare and his wife, Agnes, at the time of the bubonic plague in the late 1500s.
Most of the story is set in Stratford-on-Avon and in Hewlands, a farming community a mile or so west of Stratford, where William teaches Latin at the grammar school and Agnes grows herbs and plants and raises honeybees. The story ends in London at the Globe Theater where the play Hamlet is performed.
The novel is organized along two parallel story lines. The author describes life in the community before Agnes and William meet and marry. We also learn about their parents and siblings.
The second story line takes place in the present, on a day in which the Shakespeares’ daughter Judith is sick. As she lies in bed with a fever and developing buboes, the novelist shows what other members of the family are doing. The focus is on Hamnet, Judith’s twin, who spends his day looking for someone to help his sister.
When Agnes returns home, she swaddles Judith is a basket close to the fireplace. Unbeknownst to Agnes, Hamnet then crawls in beside his twin and cuddles. Only one of the children survives.
Grief at the loss of a child
The story based in the present conveys the grief the parents feel at the loss of one of their children and the form this grief takes in both their lives.
It is thought that the play Hamlet was written and produced in memory of Hamnet.
Most members of the UMRA Book Club liked the book or at least parts of it, including the tie-in to the plague. Agnes was the character many of the readers found the most interesting. One member particularly appreciated her intuition. Agnes’s brother Bartholomew was also a favorite character. He knew how to deal with his sister’s husband in a teasing manner.
One member said, “I thank author Maggie O’Farrell [for this book]; there is a depth of knowledge and skills here.” The author’s description of grief was especially powerful.
—Becky Anderson, UMRA Book Club member
Book Club I to meet August 19
Fri, Aug 19 2022, 2pm
Becky Anderson will lead the discussion of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell when the UMRA Book Club I meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, August 19.
Email Pat Tollefson for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.
We will meet at the Mel-O-Glaze bakery on 28th and Minnehaha Parkway and walk to Minnehaha Falls and then back again.
Some of the most valuable and rare maps in the world are held in UMN's own James Ford Bell Library, housed in Andersen Library See https://www.lib.umn.edu/collections/special/bell .
The first meeting of UMRA’s Family History Interest Group for 2023–24 will feature a presentation by Marilyn DeLong about sharing family stories and learning surprising family connections.
UMRA has a special opportunity to engage with the four newest members of the U of M Board of Regents on Wednesday, October 4, via Zoom. The purpose of the event is to share our perspectives as former University employees.
All UMRA members with an interest in photography are welcome to attend the meeting of the UMRA Photo Club on Tuesday, October 10. We welcome photographers of all abilities. Most of us are struggling amateurs. We laugh a lot and learn from sharing and talking about our pictures.
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The Fourth Friday Book Club will meet from 2 to 3:30 p.m. CDT on October 27 to discuss the life and narrative of Frederick Douglass.
Join us for a 5 mile moderately paced hike around Pleasant Lake located in the heart of North Oaks. It takes us past some of James J. Hill’s original farm buildings as well as beautiful homes built along the lakeshore. The trail is wide, generally flat and consists of packed dirt and crushed rock.
The documents noted for this event specify your managers and can minimize income taxes now, and estate taxes.
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Get an insider's perspective on Santa Fe and Taos alongside local artists, exploring the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, enjoying traditional music and learning about native cultures. The deadline for reserving a space is June 2, 2023.
Please join us for an invigorating hike from The Monument located at the intersection of Mississippi RIver Blvd and Summit Avenue in St. Paul to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and back. This hike is on paved trails, approximately 5.5 miles in length, and will be at a pace suitable to the weather.