Maggie O‘Farrell has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel Hamnet, the Guardian reports.
The novel, about the death of William Shakespeare’s son during the plague, beat out five other books for the award, including Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, and Angie Cruz’s Dominicana.
Hamnet has been met with near-universal rave reviews from critics. Joanna Briscoe, writing for the Guardian, called the book “immersive, at times shockingly intimate, and triumphantly brought to fruition,” while a reviewer for Kirkus praised the book’s “complex, moving finale,” and called it a “gripping drama of the conflict between love and destiny.”
Martha Lane Fox, who chaired the judging panel for the award, concurred, saying, “Hamnet, while set long ago, like all truly great novels expresses something profound about the human experience that seems both extraordinarily current and at the same time, enduring.”
O’Farrell said she initially thought news of her victory was “an elaborate prank.”
“There wasn’t really any particle of me that thought it would happen,” she said. “Being on the shortlist was kind of enough and it never occurred to me they would choose my book.”
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.