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The story unfolds in present and past timestreams, alternating between Agnes' early life and the current-day illness of Judith, her twin brother Hamnet's attempts to find help, Agnes' labors to save her daughter - and the eventual illness of Hamnet, just as the family is celebrating Judith's recovery. Lots of detail of daily life at that time and place, with delvings into the internal lives of the main characters, with intertwined family relationships - some brutal, some helpful - and with the changing attitudes about William. At first his departure to London to be a playwright instead of a glove-maker causes disdain or open strife in the family, but as his reputation grows there's more respect for his choices. But Agnes, despite missing him, can't quite commit to move to London, and once the children get sick and the family suffers its heartbreaking loss, she's determined to stay where she is.
The conclusion of the story does feature a trip to London, where she sees what her husband has done as his own way of coping with the death of his son. Much of the internal motivation of the characters has to be made up by the author, of course, but the story feels solid and believable - and very, very touching.
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