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.
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.
Here Maggie O'Farrell brings us 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." (The Washington Post Book World) 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 Hand That First Held Mine
Listen. The trees in this story are stirring, trembling, readjusting
themselves. A breeze is coming in gusts off the sea, and it is
almost as if the trees know, in their restlessness, in their head-tossing
impatience, that something is about to happen.
The garden is empty, the patio deserted, save for some pots with geraniums and delphiniums shuddering in the wind. A bench stands on the lawn, two chairs facing politely away from it. A bicycle is propped up against the house but its pedals are stationary, the oiled chain motionless. A baby has been put out to sleep in a pram and it lies inside its stiff cocoon of blankets, eyes obligingly shut tight. A seagull hangs suspended in the sky above and even that is silent, beak closed, wings outstretched to catch the high thermal draughts. The house is set apart from the rest of the village, behind dense hedge, on the crest of a cliff. This is the border between Devon and Cornwall, where ...
14 out of 18 BookBrowse readers rated The Hand That First Held Mine 5 out of 5 stars. Here's what they had to say:
The tempestuous nature of memory, coupled with the joys and terrors of motherhood, animates this sharp-edged novel... 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 (Marnie C). If I could have read this in one sitting I would have (Judith W)... Having just closed the final page of this book, I am tempted to simply say "Buy this book, you won't be sorry." So many of the beautifully descriptive passages are still resonating in my heart... A wonderful story from a masterful writer, and characters I will long remember (Lynn). 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 (Jean T). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (1000 words).
According to BookBrowse reviewer Marnie Colton, Maggie O'Farrell's dry wit and keen observations owe a debt to these predecessors:
Nina Bawden (b. 1925)
Nina Bawden, CBE, is one of Britain's most distinguished and best-loved novelists for adults and children. She has published over forty novels and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Circles of Deceit. In 2004 she received the PEN Award for a Lifetime's Service to Literature. A number of her works have been dramatized by BBC Children's television, and many have been translated into various languages. In March 2010, Bawden was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize, to be awarded by public vote in reparation for the prize's missing year owing to a change in rules. Nicola ...
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