The Hand That First Held Mine

The Hand That First Held Mine

Book - 2010
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Lexie Sinclair is plotting an extraordinary life for herself.

Hedged in by her parents' genteel country life, she plans her escape to London. There, she takes up with Innes Kent, a magazine editor who wears duck-egg blue ties and introduces her to the thrilling, underground world of bohemian, post-war Soho. She learns to be a reporter, to know art and artists, to embrace her life fully and with a deep love at the center of it. She creates many lives--all of them unconventional. And when she finds herself pregnant, she doesn't hesitate to have the baby on her own terms.

Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood. She doesn't recognize herself: she finds herself walking outside with no shoes; she goes to the restaurant for lunch at nine in the morning; she can't recall the small matter of giving birth. But for her boyfriend, Ted, fatherhood is calling up lost memories, with images he cannot place.

As Ted's memories become more disconcerting and more frequent, it seems that something might connect these two stories-- these two women-- something that becomes all the more heartbreaking and beautiful as they all hurtle toward its revelation.

The Hand That First Held Mine is a spellbinding novel of two women connected across fifty years by art, love, betrayals, secrets, and motherhood. Like her acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox , it is a "breathtaking, heart-breaking creation."*And it is a gorgeous inquiry into the ways we make and unmake our lives, who we know ourselves to be, and how even our most accidental legacies connect us.

*The Washington Post Book World

Publisher: Boston [Mass.] : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780547330792
Branch Call Number: F OFa


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Mar 20, 2018

I absolutely loved this book! At heart it's the story of two women, of different generations, and how their lives inter-weave without either of them being aware. The descriptive paragraphs were very well done, without being over-done or overly-romanticized. I particularly enjoyed the way rooms and buildings and streets (the book takes place primarily in London, England) maintained auras of the lives of the people who lived there, including these two women, and of their joys and sorrows being a sort of energy echoing down through the years. Very evocative and something I've personally felt/pondered many times, especially in old buildings and ancient streets.

Dec 24, 2013

2010 Costa Award. This novel tells the parallel stories of two woman. One is a journalist in 1950s Soho London; one is an artist in present day London. Both struggle for their independence; both are mothers. I was struck by the similarities in these two lives separated by a period of 50 years. The novel is also about memory and could be described as psychological suspense. Recommended.

Aug 24, 2012

What a beautiful story! At first, I couldn't figure out why it kept bouncing back and forth between the 2 characters. When the author starts knitting the two stories together, it was breathtaking. What complex characters! I plan to read the rest of Maggie O'Farrell's work very soon.

Jun 29, 2012

Started slowly and was a bit annoyed at the lack of obvious connection between the modern-day story and the 1950s era story. But the writing was so skillful, I quickly found myself really engaged in both stories and looking for the clues in how they connect. Loved the parallel issues with mothers and infants and how the author did not idealize the relationships. When the final connections are revealed, it's so satisfying! Loved the details in the character descriptions - Innes' clothes, for example. Guess I better get used to the non-linear trend in fiction. But at least the 2 stories are told in chronological order, which I appreciated after reading several books lately where the chronology was purposefully all over the map and confusing. So tired of this trend, really. Would like to see some fiction authors tell a straighforward story for a change instead of hopping on the fragmented bandwagon.

Jun 02, 2012

I was hooked from the first page by O'Farrell unique style of setting the scene as in a play. She tells you what is going to happen to a character, and still manages to surprise and even shock by things that happen. As others have said, this is a story that remains with you long after you've read the final page.

Apr 24, 2012

a very thought provoking book this was one of those that makes u think at the end. every well written and very good in the way it was not to overpowering but i loved the book a lot.

Apr 23, 2012

Beautifully written - surprises in lovely sentences and images and a deeply poignant story of motherhood, mothering and loving and female independence.
A book to read more than once. Like a tidepool, each segment reveals its inhabitants but in a second glance, you see all that you missed.

Oct 27, 2011

A beautifully written, haunting novel. It took me a little bit to appreciate the flow of the words and the author's style but found myself looking for opportunities during the day to steal away for a few pages. Like a good wine, this novel is to be savoured.

Feb 08, 2011

This books is haunting, especially for a mum with a young child. It is very well written. The story moves back and fourth between 2 time periods with different people as the focus, some things are predictable while others are not. Some are so true! Really enjoyed this read.

Jan 18, 2011

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