Childhood brush with death helped make me a better novelist, says Maggie O’Farrell

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Writer says encephalitis left her with a stammer that developed her sense of grammar and broadened her vocabulary

Maggie O’Farrell, acclaimed last year for taking readers inside the Shakespeares’ Stratford family home at a time of plague in her award-winning novel Hamnet, has revealed how experience of a life-threatening childhood illness helped her writing.

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O’Farrell, 48, was left with a stammer after a bout of encephalitis when she was eight years old and believes this developed her keen sense of grammar, as well as broadening her vocabulary. Finding different ways to say things became a natural skill.

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