Maggie O'Farrell: Loves, Labours, Loss
Edinburgh-based Maggie O’Farrell hit a spectacular new career high last year with the publication of Hamnet – winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, a huge bestseller across the world and unquestionably a standout book of 2020. Why did O’Farrell’s novel about the death Shakespeare’s only son strike such a chord with readers? It certainly didn’t do any harm that the story was set in a time of pandemic. But more fundamentally, Hamnet was striking for its compelling and deeply insightful depiction of a mother’s love for her children. Fierce maternal devotion – and the aching sense of loss – are at the heart of today’s event about the experiences that have shaped her writing and ideas. O’Farrell discusses the influence of a mild neurological condition on her writing. A childhood bout of encephalitis resulted in a number of small but important changes in her mental and bodily performance, including balance issues, inhibited proprioception and stammering. How have these influenced her work?
Join her for a fascinating look inside the mind of an author who has produced fiction and non-fiction of the highest order.
Edinburgh-based writer Maggie O'Farrell has produced her finest novel to date with Hamnet, and it turns out to be remarkably topical too.
Hamnet is set in Stratford in the late-16th century, at a time when bubonic plague is on the rise across England. The central character in the book, Hamnet, is one of Shakespeare's three children. His twin sister Julia has fallen ill and he is desperately trying to find his mother Agnes.
Alongside a story of sickness, it's a way of looking at Shakespeare's emerging success as a playwright and his guilt as an absent father. O'Farrell's exquisite depiction of motherly love and her ability to construct a compelling narrative are masterful in this short but deeply moving novel.