Women’s Prize for Fiction Winners – Books I Read and Want to Read

Susanna Clarke has been chosen as the winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with Piranesi, a book I haven’t read yet but that I definitely want to. I don’t tend to pay much attention to literary prizes, to be honest. However, the enthusiasm that so many readers show for the Women’s Prize usually makes me at least want to know who has won and what the book in question is about.

Having taken a quick look at the prize’s website, I discovered that I’ve read three of the previous winners and am interested in reading not only Piranesi, but also other four in the future. None of the books ended up on my wish list because they were the winners of this particular prize. It was either the premise or the general work of the authors that first appealed to me.

 

Winners I Read

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A fictional story about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, Hamnet was a worthy winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. The feelings of the characters are tangible and duly intense. Agnes’s suffering in particular is poignantly portrayed. Set mainly around 1596, this book about grief, parenthood, love and family life also has some chapters set in previous decades, which allows readers to learn more about the characters and better understand their actions. Continue reading

Exploration of Motherhood in Books

Depicting mothers has always been a challenge that authors were willing to accept throughout history, particularly in adult fiction. They can be portrayed as the “ideal” mums, the ones that get everything right and do no wrong, but more often than not the most interesting mothers are those who are struggling in some way, that have conflicting feelings towards motherhood, that are afraid of failing, or that try incredibly hard to protect their offspring, occasionally to no avail.

In the latest years, I read some books that made me ponder on the importance that motherhood plays in stories. The mothers in Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Circe by Madeline Miller, The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, The Muse and The Confession by Jessie Burton are all dissimilar. Nevertheless, they have a huge relevance in the plot of the novels they are a part of, even when they are not the main characters.

If you have not read the novels I mentioned previously, I warn you that I’ll allude to some occurrences that may be considered spoilers. Continue reading

‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 5 stars

A story about grief, parenthood, love and family life, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a convincing, albeit fictional, tale about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, who is never mentioned by his name. The feelings of the characters are so palpable and intense that we can almost experience them ourselves. Although this is the story of an entire family, it is mostly Agnes who is in the spotlight. Her suffering is profoundly portrayed.

The book starts with a historical note to let readers know that this is the story of a couple who lived in Stratford in the 1580s. They had three children – Susanna, plus the twins Hamnet and Judith. We know from the outset that this is to be a sad tale. Hamnet died in 1596, when he was eleven years old. Some years later, his father wrote a play called Hamlet.

Sometime before his death, Hamnet is desperately looking for his mother, grandmother or any other member of the household, as his sister Judith is feeling unwell. He can’t find anyone. Agnes is at a garden where she grows medicinal herbs. She was called there because something was wrong with the bees. His older sister and his grandmother are in town, and his father is in London. Eventually, he finds someone in the house. Unfortunately, it is his grandfather, a disgraced glover, who is drunk and ends up throwing a cup at his face. Continue reading

Paperback Releases I’m Excited About

Paperbacks should be far more appreciated! They are light and compact, fitting perfectly in our bags, which allows us, devoted readers, to take them everywhere. Very rarely do I buy the hardback editions of books, despite them being published at least a year earlier than paperbacks in the UK (publishing practices in Portugal are entirely different in this regard).

At the moment, there are seven books that I’m excited to read in paperback, although I probably won’t be able to get to them all this year.

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I have sky-high expectations for this novel, as it has not only been highly praised by many reviewers, but it has also won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. In 1596, a little girl, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, is taken ill with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, tries to find someone to help them, since they are alone at home. Agnes, their mother, is in a garden where she plants medicinal herbs, and their father, who happens to be Shakespeare, is working in London. They still have no idea that Hamnet will not live long. It will be released in paperback on the 1st of April. Continue reading