My best read over recent weeks has been Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, the story of Shakespeares’s family life in Stratford in the time of plague. Hamnet is his son but the most present and complex character is his wife Agnes (aka Anne). The bard himself is never named, but always referred to as the husband or the father. It’s beautifully written, poignant, compelling and utterly credible in place and time. A sad omission from the Booker longlist in my humble opinion. – Wendy Jones
A recommendation from our friend Katie Steingold at Fine Cell Work. Jermyn Street Theatre are broadcasting an archive recording ofStitchers, Esther Freud’s play about the beginning of Fine Cell Work and story of founder Lady Anne Tree. Members taking part in our project with FCW might be particularly interested in seeing it. Catch it on 11, 12 and 13 September. – Sue Evans
I’ve been completely engrossed in The Fiveby Hallie Rubenhold (newly out in paperback), which tells the story of each of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper. These were mothers, wives, sisters, workers, all of them in difficult circumstances, but by no means simply the prostitutes they have always been labelled as. Rubenhold brilliantly reconstructs the women’s lives from the meagre records left behind, and in the process paints a detailed and fascinating picture of life for London’s poor in the 1880s. This is such a brilliant idea for a book, and makes me wonder how we can have been content with the cliched picture of these women we’d accepted for so long.
– Jill Hopper
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