In the 1580’s a couple living in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. The boy Hamnet died aged eleven. Four years or so later, the father wrote a play called Hamlet.
The story starts on a summer’s day in 1596. A young girl takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?
This beautifully written novel, almost poetic in places, is inspired by the son of a famous playwright. The playwright is never mentioned by name, just referred to as husband, father, brother or son. 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 kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is the tender 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.