‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell is our February Ballerina Book Club pick

‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell is our February Ballerina Book Club pick

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Hi, readers!

Our February pick for Ballerina Book Club, hosted by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Isabella Boylston, is Maggie O’Farrell’s “Hamnet.”

The latest from O’Farrell — author of the memoir “I am, I am, I am” and eight novels — blurs history and fiction to tell a story of motherhood, marriage, grief, disease and love, all set against an Elizabethan backdrop.

If the title reminds you of a certain Shakespeare play (cough, cough: “Hamlet”), then you are well on your way to understanding aspects of this novel. The story turns around Shakespeare’s family, particularly his only son, Hamnet, who died four years before the Bard penned “Hamlet.”

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But, to be sure, this is not a book about Shakespeare — a shadow escaped by casting the playwright as the “husband” or “Latin tutor.” Instead, most of our time is spent at home with the family and his wife Anne Hathaway (or Agnes, as she’s named in the book) while the playwright is away. Set in the 1500s, we follow the family to the eventual death of Hamnet and its reverberations. Providing fuel to the narrative, the novel takes place as the bubonic plague rips through England.

As Isabella puts it: “The beautiful prose draws you in to Shakespeare’s England. The daily life of the time in which they lived is rendered in a way that makes you feel you’re there. It’s a different time, unrecognizable in many ways, but quite a few aspects of life are the same: the desire to be accepted by one’s community and family, love, and even a pandemic.”

You can find our reading schedule below. Be sure to check back for discussion questions and special surprises.

And we aren’t quite done with our January pick, “The Glass Hotel,” just yet. Join us Feb. 12 at 12 p.m. Eastern on Isabella’s Instagram page for a live conversation with author Emily St. John Mandel ahead of the paperback release of the novel.

A parting note: If you haven’t already, sign up for our weekly newsletter to get interviews, book picks and more delivered to your inbox. You can also find us on Goodreads, where we’ll be discussing the book and more.

~ Reading Schedule ~

Feb. 4: Page 1 to 91

Feb. 11: Page 92 to 151

Feb. 12: Join us at 12 p.m. Eastern on Isabella’s Instagram account for a live chat with “The Glass Hotel” author Emily St. John Mandel

Feb. 18: Page 152 to 211

Feb. 25: Page 211 to the end

Subscribe to the Ballerina Book Club newsletter here. You can also find all book club related posts on our collection page. And be sure to follow Isabella Boylston, Connor Holloway and ALL ARTS on Instagram for more book club updates!