Advance reader reviews of The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell.

The Hand That First Held Mine

By Maggie O'Farrell

The Hand That First Held Mine
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2010,
    352 pages.

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There are currently 17 member reviews
for The Hand That First Held Mine
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  • Marnie C. (Baltimore, MD)


    The Hand That First Held MIne
    The tempestuous nature of memory, coupled with the joys and terrors of motherhood, animates this sharp-edged novel that deserves comparison with the fine yet often marginalized British female writers of the early- to late-twentieth century. Virago Books, a publisher of women's writings, has resurrected many of these authors, such as Nina Bawden, Molly Keane, and Daphne Du Maurier; while Maggie O'Farrell's dry wit and keen observations owe a debt to these predecessors, she connects the past (London in the 1950s, '60, and '70s) to the present in startling and evocative ways. After describing the bustling office of a Soho art magazine so vividly that we can almost hear the typewriters clicking, O'Farrell then shows us what the office has become in the new millennium: a café, quiet in the early morning, where the staff have forgotten to pick up a piece of foccaccia under the table. Objects and memories recur in different times and places, in the homes and heads of characters who are often connected in ways that they are not yet aware of, a technique which grants a kind of fossilized texture to the intertwining narratives. At one key point in the book, a man picks up an ammonite, the shell of an ancient mollusk, and marvels at its weight in comparison with the dress pocket he has pulled it from; at another, a young mother stumbles upon a valuable painting hidden behind a dressing table. These imaginistic clues ultimately help unlock a decades-old mystery, one as devastating as it is intriguing, and perfectly suit a book devoted to exploring the lives of artists and writers.
  • Joan P. (Owego, NY)


    The Hand That First Held Mine
    This is one of the most engaging books that I have read in a long time. It weaves together two stories. One is from the past and one is in the present. The first tells of a country girl that leaves home to make her life in London. We follow her through love, motherhood and death. The other thread starts at the birth of a child and tells of the trials of parenthood. As you read there are clues that hint at the relationship between the two stories and the conclusion ties the tales together. I am going to recommend this book to my book club.
  • Beth M. (Scarsdale, NY)


    A book I couldn't put down
    From the opening page I was hooked. Written in beautiful, creative prose, this story is about two strong women struggling with motherhood (in all it's glories and difficulties), identity, love and family. These are women you really care about. You want to know how their lives unfold and how their lives are connected. I loved the twists, surprising revelations and resolutions. Nothing disappointed me and as so rarely happens, the ending was complete and satisfying. I didn't want to stop reading it and I didn't want it to end.
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