In the Shadow of Queens by Alison Weir (Review)

In the Shadow of Queens by Alison Weir

Blurb

Behind every great king stands a queen. And behind every queen, the whole court watches on…

Over the years of his reign, six different women took their place beside King Henry VIII of England as his wife and queen.

But the real stories of the six Tudor queens belong to those who lived among them. Played out in glittering palaces and whispering courts, these are tales of the people who loved and served these women, and those who lied and betrayed them.

Collected together for the first time, In the Shadow of Queens reveals thirteen startling stories from the Tudor court, told by those at the very heart of that world.

Review

I had already read the first few of these short stories on my Kindle but when I saw that the complete set had been put into a book I immediately ordered myself a copy. 

I reread the first few stories and then read the rest of the book. The only story that I really did not enjoy was the very last story. I found it so sad and disgraceful that poor Katharine Parr was not allowed to rest in peace and her grave was opened up and and vandalised so many times over the years. 

I must admit the stories got longer as the book went on which seemed a shame because the first few stories were very short in comparison. I would have liked the first few stories to be longer. I really enjoyed how Weir chose her topics for the stories. They were all connected with the queens in some way but some were based on places and some on people even if they were quite obscure people. 

I also really enjoyed Weir’s notes about what was historically accurate and what bits she embellished by herself. All the stories offered new view points of the queens lives which was really interesting. I particularly enjoyed the story about the infant Mary Seymour which we sadly know so little about. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I am very sad the series have come to end. I will definitely be reading more books by Weir. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Review)

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Blurb

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn¹t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

When she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. 

When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? 

As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood¹s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. 

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Review

After reading Mrs England I really wanted to read more of Stacey Halls’ work and thankfully I remembered I had The Familiars on one of my many TBR piles. When I started reading this I struggled to get into it to start with as it didn’t seem to hook me in like Mrs England had but once I was about a third of the way in I couldn’t put the book down. 

This book is based on the real Pendle witch trials that happened in 1612 and the characters are named after real life characters from that period but the story is devised by Stacey Halls. 

Fleetwood is the main character in this book and to start with she comes across as rather immature and a little bit spoiled but as the book goes on you see her grow up and become a strong woman. It is just sad that the reason she grows up so quickly is because of the blows that life throws at her during this book. 

Alice is Fleetwood’s first real friend and her midwife. She is also Fleetwood’s only hope to bring into the world a healthy baby and keep her own life. Alice is a lovely character and clearly a woman who knows her own mind, she is intelligent and knows the way to help people medically with the items available for the time period. She is also lost and needs someone to be her friend and fight her corner. 

Richard is Fleetwood’s husband and to be honest I did not like him. He gives Fleetwood more freedom than most women would have had in the 1600’s but it also seems to come with a price. He comes across as vain and rather big headed. 

The story is really about strong women who are not understood by men and so they are punished because of it. It shows just how tough life was for a woman in the 1600’s and that even wealthy women were not well treated at times. I really enjoyed this book but I did struggle at the beginning so I am giving this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

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Product Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Sistersong by Lucy Holland (Review)

Sistersong by Lucy Holland

Blurb

535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.

Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.

Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter.

And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain. 

Review

I will be honest I struggled with this book and at least twice I considered not finishing it. However, I am pleased that I did finish it because it did pick up and I really enjoyed the second half. I think my main problem was that I just found the beginning rather slow and to be honest annoying. 

The story is based around the lives of three sisters and two of these sisters at times drove me mad. Sinne was the worst culprit for driving me mad and it was simply because she was a spoiled brat who was very immature and rather heartless. Sinne spends her time dreaming of romance and adventures and not living in the real world and because of this she does not see what is happening around her or that people she loves are hurting. 

Riva is a troubled character, she was terribly burned in a fire when she was young and although she is now healed but left with scars she is clearly not healed mentally. At times I felt sorry for Riva but I also despaired at her naivety and just wanted to shake her at times. 

Keyne was my favourite character and the reason I carried on reading. Keyne was born a daughter but clearly wants to be a son but nobody sees this in her and everyone just thinks she is a silly girl who dresses in boys’ clothes. As the story goes on you see Keyne develop as a character and become what he was meant to be. Keyne can see in people their true worth and also is not so easy to trust people.

Osred was another favourite of mine, he is sworn to serve Tristan and can not speak but he silently watches and is a true friend to Sinne. Tristan however was not a favourite of mine and I did not trust him at all. 

The book is full of magic and wonder but it is also the tale of three sisters who are so different from each other that only love and their parents really holds them together. It is also an interesting telling of how Christianity was starting to be introduced into Britain. Overall, I give this book 3 out 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Lucy Holland works for Waterstones and has a BA in English and Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing under Andrew Motion in 2010. Lucy lives in Devon and co-hosts Breaking the Glass Slipper, an award-winning feminist podcast. 

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Unhappiest Lady in Christendom by Alison Weir (Review)

The Unhappiest Lady in Christendom by Alison Weir

Blurb

Henry VIII’s third queen is dead, leaving the King’s only son without a mother and the country without a queen. And as preparations are being made for Queen Jane’s funeral, her stepdaughter, the Lady Mary, laments the country’s loss.

But, only a month later, the King has begun his search for a new wife. Will Mary accept this new queen, or will she be forced to live in the shadows of Queen Katherine, Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Jane for ever?

Review

I have read all the main novels from the Six Tudor Queens series but I have still got the short ebooks to finish off. This little short kept me occupied whilst I sat and waited after my second vaccine. 

This book begins at the death of Queen Jane and is told from the perspective of Lady Mary. Lady Mary loved Queen Jane because Queen Jane welcomed her and reunited her with her father and was a Catholic so when Queen Jane died Lady Mary was very upset and also felt sorry for her baby brother Prince Edward. 

Through this short book we see Mary work through her grief but also see her worry about what will happen to her next, now that Queen Jane is no longer there to be her friend at court. We also see that Mary’s health is not great in this book and that she is plagued by tooth ache. 

The main books from this series are all based on the wives of Henry VIII so it is nice to have a small book based on Lady Mary and to see her thoughts and feelings of her life as the daughter of Henry VIII. Her father hasn’t made life easy for her but Mary still loves him and wants to spend time with him but now she has a new worry in the form of a possible new step mother.

I really enjoyed this short story and I would love Weir to write a full book for each of the children of Henry VIII. I just really wanted this story to be longer. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir (Review)

Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

Blurb

Two husbands dead; a life marred by sadness. And now Katharine is in love for the first time in her life.

The eye of an ageing and dangerous king falls upon her. She cannot refuse him. She must stifle her feelings and never betray that she wanted another.

And now she is the sixth wife. Her queenship is a holy mission yet, fearfully, she dreams of the tragic parade of women who went before her. She cherishes the secret beliefs that could send her to the fire. And still the King loves and trusts her. 

Now her enemies are closing in. She must fight for her very life.

KATHARINE PARR – the last of Henry’s queens. 

Alison Weir recounts the extraordinary story of a woman forced into a perilous situation and rising heroically to the challenge. Katharine is a delightful woman, a warm and kindly heroine – and yet she will be betrayed by those she loves and trusts most. 

Too late, the truth will dawn on her. 

Review

Katharine Parr is the one wife of Henry VIII that I have never really known much about and to be honest that is due to my own fault as I have never found her as interesting as the other wives. I now realise that I was very wrong about Katharine Parr, she was indeed a very interesting character. 

Katharine Parr had a life marred by sadness, she lost her father at an early age but had a happy childhood due to her aunt and uncle and her very forward thinking mother who believed women should have the same education as men. However, she had to leave the happy home to get married to her first husband and although her husband was friendly things were not as they seemed. Sadly, Katharine is widowed early but she soon finds happiness with her second husband and finds the love of a loving step daughter. Katharine’s life is happy but she is frustrated with the fact she has to keep her true beliefs hidden from the public eye. 

Sadly, Katharine is widowed again but happiness in the form of Tom Seymour presents itself but at the same time King Henry also wants her hand and because Katharine believes she can do some good she accepts and puts her own happiness on hold. I do believe though that the thought of being queen is also a big draw to marrying the king as in the book Katharine really does love her pretty gowns, jewellery and her major passion which is shoes. 

Katharine is a kind woman who wants to help her step children in any way she can and is an advocate for religion and education. The one problem I had with her was how heartless she could be and it was obvious she was not a mother herself. The things she said to people who had lost children were terrible and although she thought what she said was a help it really wasn’t. I also found her rather naive when it came to Tom Seymour. For such a strong woman it would appear she was easily deceived when it came to her fourth husband. 

This was an excellent read that I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved learning more about Katharine as a woman. She was strong willed and forward thinking for the time and because she had power she was able to get away with her beliefs. This is an excellent series of books and this was an excellent ending. The series teaches us about the queens of Henry VIII but not just their time as queen but their whole lives and that is the beauty of these books. I give this book 5 out 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir (Review)

Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir

Blurb

A naive girl, thrust forward by her ambitious family. A pretty girl, who has captured the heart of the King. Katheryn sings, she dances, she delights in the pleasures of being queen. The King tells the world she is his rose without a thorn.

But this young woman has a past of which Henry knows nothing. It comes back increasingly to haunt her, even as she courts danger yet again. For those who gather roses must beware of the thorns.

Review

I started reading this and could not put it down, thankfully I had handed in my latest assignment as I would have been thoroughly distracted. Alison Weir really does keep producing some amazing books and they seem to be getting better and better. 

Katheryn Howard is Henry VIII’s fifth wife and one who was used by her family and did not  remain Henry’s wife for long. Katheryn lost her mother at an early age and was then passed from one relation to another until she reached the household of her Grandam. The household of her Grandam contains many young women and these young women lack morals and soon Katheryn is following their example and also taking it further. 

When Katheryn serves Anna of Kleve she catches the King’s eye and so her uncle the Duke of Norfolk and her Grandam take advantage of this and make sure that the King only has eyes for Katheryn. 

Katheryn has lacked guidance and makes some naive decisions before she is married and sadly these come back to haunt her when she is married to Henry. Henry loves and adores Katheryn and will do anything for her happiness and Katheryn finds herself very happy whilst married to him but also she lives in constant fear.

Katheryn was basically a very naive and silly young woman who knew the risks but lived in a world of delusion where she thought she wouldn’t be found out and she was wrongly used by her family and those she trusted. 

I always felt sorry for Katheryn because if she had had better guidance as a child and teenager I believe she wouldn’t have made the decisions that she did but sadly she might still have been used by her family. Weir really builds a wonderful picture of Katheryn’s life and even though I know her story well I could not stop reading to see what happened next. I did want to shake Katheryn at times and tell her to grow up but this didn’t affect the love I have for this book. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker (Review)

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

Blurb

Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.

But the wind does not come. The gods have been offended – the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied – and so the victors remain in limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, pacing at the edge of an unobliging sea. And, in these empty, restless days, the hierarchies that held them together begin to fray, old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.

Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can – with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest – and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous…

Review

When I saw this book I knew I had to read it, especially as I studied the women of Troy last year for an assignment. We sadly don’t know much about Briseis and we definitely don’t know for sure what happened to her once Achilles was killed. Some believe that Achilles gave her to one of his comrades in arms and this is the story line that Barker has gone with for this book.

We start the story with the sacking of Troy and the death of Priam. After the battle the story is mainly told by Briseis but is occasionally seen from Calchus the high priest and Pyrrhus’ point of view. 

Briseis is not a slave like the other women of Troy because she is now married to Alcimus, so she has more freedom around the camp. However, Briseis knows what it is to see her family killed and to be taken as a slave by the Greeks so she endeavours to help the women of Troy as much as she can. 

Briseis is a wonderful character in this book as she has troubles of her own but she really tries to help the women of Troy. However, at times I did find her rather naive and that did annoy me slightly. 

Hecuba was perfect in my opinion and as I always imagined her. Even though her kingdom has fallen and she is now a slave owned by Odysseus she still has her pride. The only thing that knocks her is her grief but she still keeps on going. Cassandra was a rather a surprise because sadly she is usually portrayed as insane but Barker was very kind about her. Pyrrhus was another mystery but really he is a lost little boy trying to fill his father’s shoes and always feeling lacking. 

I really found this take on the aftermath of the fall of Troy very refreshing and it was wonderful to have a story about one of the women of Troy that isn’t Helen. I really enjoyed this book but I was disappointed at the end because I really wanted to find out what happened with Briseis’ and Alcimus’ relationship, all it needed was a couple of extra pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I thank NetGalley and Penguin UK for giving me an ARC of this book.

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Purchase Links

(Due for publication on the 26th August 2021)

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Pat Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics. 

Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy Regeneration; The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road, winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She’s married and lives in Durham, England.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Review)

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Blurb

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel

Review

I do love a Greek myth retelling especially if it is fairly faithful to the actual myth. This Greek myth was a refreshing read because it was told from the viewpoint of the women instead of the usual male heroes. 

The main voice we hear in this story is Ariadne. Ariadne is the granddaughter of Helios but the only sign of this is her beautiful blonde hair. Ariadne’s life in Crete is not easy once her brother the Minotaur is born, her life is haunted by the sound of the Minotaur living beneath her feet. However, a way out of this existence presents itself and Ariadne grabs it with both hands. 

The other voice that we hear from is Phaedra who is Ariadne’s younger sister. Phaedra is the complete opposite to her sister, she is full of spirit and is not afraid of anything and has the ability to rule. 

This retelling really highlights what is always there in the original myths but always remains in the background. Men strut around being heroes, fighting the monsters and vanquishing enemies, they draw the attention to the gods and when they upset the gods the gods make them pay by making their wives and female relatives pay. I think that is the main vein of the story that runs through this book, women are always the ones who pay the price and poor Ariadne really does pay. 

I loved this retelling and although there were a few historical inaccuracies which I only picked out because I’m a classics student, the story was beautifully written and one that I couldn’t put down. I really felt every hurt and wrong that poor Ariadne and Phaedra suffered but at the same time I loved their strength and belief in standing up for themselves. I also loved how the male characters within this story took a backseat, Theseus, Perseus and Dionysus have had far too much attention over the years. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After thirteen years as a high school English teacher, she wrote ARIADNE which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Jennifer Saint is now a full-time author, living in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Summer, 1540. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the King’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . . 

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother brutally murdered – the formula has disappeared. Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovered nothing is as it seems . . .

Review

I was so excited to read another story about Matthew Shardlake as I thoroughly enjoyed the first book Dissolution. This book is set three years after the first book and finds Shardlake no longer in the employment or favour of Cromwell but quietly working as a lawyer in London.

Shardlake is defending a girl who is accused of murdering her cousin and must work quickly if he has any chance of saving her. However, during this time Cromwell throws a spanner in the works by giving Shardlake another case and not an easy one. Cromwell also gives Shardlake a rather uncouth assistant to help him called Barack who likes to call  people he doesn’t like a rather rude name.

Shardlake and Barack have to work on the two cases at the same time but the one for Cromwell is hampered constantly. People are trying to kill Shardlake and Barack and the people involved that could help the investigations are killed before they can help. The other problem is that Shardlake and Barack always seem to be one step behind the bad guys.

This book really kept me on my toes and I never worked out who was guilty for either crime until it is revealed until the end. I also enjoyed reading about how the Tudors considered humours to be the source of health and illness as I have just finished an assignment on health in ancient Greece and Rome and their health and treatments also relied on the balance of humours.

There are so many twists and turns in this book and it never stopped for a moment. I couldn’t put this book down and throughly enjoyed it, in fact I think I enjoyed it more than the first book in the series. I can’t wait to read more about Shardlake and I give this book 5 out of 5 books. 

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Purchase Links

 Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Review)

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Blurb

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet. 

Review

Always seduced by a pretty cover I got this book because of the special Waterstones edition that is very attractive.

I do love the work of Shakespeare and have been trying to read all of his works. Although I will be honest I always felt very sorry for his wife who was left behind all that time whilst he was in London.

Hamnet is based on Shakespeare’s son, Hamlet or Hamnet but really it is more to do with Shakespeare’s marriage. The story moves backwards and forwards to the present day and to the past based around Agnes and William as children and how they came about meeting and getting married.

Agnes or Anne as she is more commonly known, is described as a woman with peculiar talents. Agnes can see the dead and also see snippets into the future and she understands the properties of herbs and can heal people with them. This means that people both fear her and need her in equal measure.

William is introduced as the eldest son of a glove maker who does not get on with his father. His father sees him as a waste of space and does not understand why his eldest son does not want to take the family business on. William is acting as tutor to earn a living but is not enjoying it and is getting more and more depressed and frustrated until he makes the move to London.

The book shows us how Agnes and William cope as parents, living so far apart and having to deal with the death of a child. I found this section very emotional but I must admit I got very frustrated with William and Agnes at times and felt very sorry for their daughters.

I enjoyed the story and found that O’Farrell had taken an interesting take on the people we know so well from history and yet know so little. I will be honest I could have done without the chapter about a flea and just found it rather unnecessary. I also discovered there were a few sections that I found unnecessary and could have done without but overall I did enjoy this piece of historical fiction and give it 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Maggie O’Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones’ 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels – the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.