Maggie O’Farrell’s story about the short life of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet was named Waterstones Book of the Year, with chain booksellers saying its message of “hope through the darkest times” was “particularly prescient for this eventful year”.
Already a winner of this year’s Female Fiction Award, Hamnet is O’Farrell’s eighth novel and follows Agnes as her 11-year-old son falls ill with the plague. It won an “overwhelming majority” in the Waterstones Booksellers Poll, ahead of titles like Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist, Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times novel and Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four biography at The Beatles.
Alex McQueen of Waterstones Islington called it “timely, poetic, and with an almost cinematic ability to transform between perspective and stage”, while Callie Limb of Waterstones Burton upon Trent described it as “heartbreaking, beautiful and skillful. in the sentence”.
Bea Carvalho, the channel’s fiction buyer, said Hamnet had been the “standout” for a year of brilliant books, and predicted it would become a classic. He can certainly expect a lot more sales as Christmas approaches, with the in-store promotions that come with the Year Book reliably providing a major boost.
Hamnet is a literary treat that offers texture to the story of our most famous playwright, a portrayal of the dazzling highs and devastating lows of parenthood, and a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit: this wonderful novel really has something for readers of all tastes, ”Carvalho said. “It is a masterpiece of an author at the height of his power.”
O’Farrell said it was a “huge honor” to win the title of book of the year, “especially since I know the award is nominated by the most discerning readers: the booksellers.” Last year the award was won by Charlie Mackesy’s Boy, Mole, Fox and Horse.
“Without the advice and knowledge of booksellers my reading shelves would be much poorer. 2020 has been a strange and difficult year for all of us: what better time to listen to the stories of others and get lost in a book? O’Farrell said.