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Random Review: Novel about Shakespeare to be discussed

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Marjorie Sandor of Corvallis will review "Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague," as part of the Friends of the Library’s Random Review series on Wednesday. The program will take place online via GoToWebinar. It is free but registration is required at

Maggie O’Farrell’s “Hamnet” is an engrossing novel of historical fiction about the family life of William Shakespeare in the late medieval English village of Stratford-Upon-Avon. From the very few historical details available, O’Farrell conjures a gritty and poetic life of the playwright (who is never named) and his family, and a heartbreaking portrayal of the parents’ grief following the death of their 11-year-old son.

O’Farrell tells the story in two timelines, one beginning on the morning Hamnet’s twin sister comes down with the bubonic plague, the other a flashback to the courtship of their parents, both of whom are misfits.

“Hamnet,” published in 2020, is O’Farrell’s eighth novel. It was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and one of the Times Review of Books’ Best Books of 2020.

Sandor is the author of five books that include personal essays, short stories, a memoir (“The Late Interiors: A Life Under Construction”), and most recently a debut novel “The Secret Music of Tordesillas” in 2020. She is professor emerita of English and Creative Writing in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University. She and her husband, author Tracy Daugherty, co-founded the OSU master of fine arts program in creative writing. The two shared the Oregon Book Awards’ Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award in 2018.

Sandor’s book of personal essays “The Night Gardener: A Search for Home,” won the 2000 Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction, and her book of stories “Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime” received the National Jewish Book Award in Fiction for 2004.

Up next: On Dec. 12 Abby Metzger reviews "The Address book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth and Power" by Deirdre Mask.


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