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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  • Elizabeth B. (Sunnyvale, CA)


    The Hand That First Held Mine
    This is one of the best books I've read in the past two years. The writing was exquisite. I was intrigued with how the author went between the two sets of main characters, of different generations, in both conventional and non-conventional ways. In on particular way, I felt like I was watching a movie, something I haven't experienced before. Additionally, the author developed the characters in such painstakingly, intricate ways. Their identities didn't hit the reader over the head, but you got to know them slowly, meticulously. The reader's perspective and location also shifted at times in the novel, which made the novel seem more lifelike.
  • Christine P. (Pleasanton, CA)


    The Hand That First Held Mine
    Identity? What defines you as a person? What are the many factors that make us the person we will become? Maggie O’Farrell explores this subject in her latest novel, The Hand That First Held Mine, through the lives of two women, Lexie and Elina. We meet Lexie in the mid 1950s just as she leaves home for London. She becomes a journalist in the avant-garde art scene. Elina lives in today’s world just as she has become a new mother. Due to complications during the birth, her boyfriend, Ted, is having a hard time with the fact that he has almost lost Elina. O’Farrell does a fantastic job of capturing those sleep deprived days of early motherhood. Discussion groups will love this novel because of the wealth of topics; love, loss, environment, parentage, greed, anger and so on, that make up the ingredients to the character of the person we become.
  • Kathy W. (Appleton, WI)


    The Hand That First Held Mine
    I loved this book and highly recommend it. The language is beautiful, the characters are memorable, and the parallel plots reward the reader with more than the sum of the two stories told separately. Maggie O'Farrell recognizes the importance of detail in creating believable fiction and her dialogue is so good that at times I felt like I was eavesdropping! I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
  • Carol J. (Isle, MN)


    The Hand that First Held Mine
    This was the first of Maggie O'Farrell's books that I have read and I am looking forward to another one. I found "The Hand that First Held Mine" to be a well crafted and very enjoyable book. The characters were interesting and engaging. The writing style seemed to put the reader into the same emotional place as the characters.
    As a mother, especially a single mother, I found the relationships very believable and reminiscent. I was also impressed with Ms. O'Farrell's portrayal of Elina's postpartum experience and the development of the baby. Her descriptions of the way the infants engaged their respective mothers was very insightful.

    I most enjoyed the masterful ending of the book. I always enjoy a well ended book, especially when the ending is not predictable from the first page. This would be a fun bookclub book, and could inspire some interesting discussions.
  • Judith W. (Brooklyn, NY)


    Couldn't put it down
    If I could have read this in one sitting I would have, but available time did not allow. Enjoyed both story lines and found the back and forth interesting, though it took me some time to tumble to the underlying relationship between the two stories. Also found the contrasts between the two showed how things have changed between the two time frames. Will look out for more from this author.
  • Marjorie H. (Bedford, TX)


    Too Short
    This small book held my attention from beginning to end. The reader is immediately pulled into the world of Alexandra/Lexie who's considering her life and will change her life as her name is changed. She's strong and willful. But, perhaps not as strong as Elina who is home with a newborn and a brush with death delivering her son. This story evolves and Lexie, through the death of her lover, continues to surprise the reader with her choices - in life and in men.

    Elina, survives the tortuous months of recovering and caring for her son. Ted, the father of Jonah, is suffering from recurring seizures and seems to be facing a downward spiral - fighting vague memories of the past.

    Part mystery; part romance - the book ends with shocking acts and resolutions that connect the characters in very interesting ways. I wish it could have been longer. Wonderful read, wonderfully written.
  • Jean T. (Paducah, KY)


    Love at First Sight
    I was deeply intrigued with the first paragraph -- rereading it more than once just to be sure -- and by the end of the first page I was totally smitten with this book. At first I found the interweaving of Lexie’s and Elina’s stories a bit jarring and disjointed, but then I settled into the author’s rhythm and enjoyed the episodic intertwining. In the midst I always took the time to step back to appreciate her incredible, poetic descriptive prose. I am not a mother myself and it’s no longer a possibility for me, yet the author’s description of a new mother’s fears, confusion, fatigue, and yet fiercely intense bonding with her baby seemed so very authentic to me in a way that I have never before seen presented. By the end of the book I didn’t want it to end, but the ending was so very perfect I felt at peace. The author did an incredibly masterful job in weaving all the threads of the two women’s stories together into a cohesive, beautiful multicolored tapestry. I continued to ponder the book after I finished, making the connections that were not apparent except in hindsight. I consider this one of the finest books I’ve read in a long time and think it will make an excellent selection for book clubs.
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