Winner of the 2010 Costa Novel Award and a Sunday Times bestseller, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE by Maggie O'Farrell is a gorgeously written story of love and motherhood from the author of THIS MUST BE THE PLACE.
When the sophisticated Innes Kent turns up on her doorstep, Lexie Sinclair realises she cannot wait any longer for her life to begin, and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, she carves out a new life. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with her sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood that don't tally with his parents' version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected.
O'Farrell (TheVanishing Act of Esme Lennox) interweaves two seemingly unconnected stories that of Lexie Sinclair, living in post-WWII London, and Elina Vilkuna, a denizen of present-day London. Lexie is a rebellious 21-year-old, and when she meets handsome and sophisticated Innes Kent, she realizes he's the one who can help her find the adventure and excitement she craves. Their affair coincides with her moving up in the ranks at the magazine he edits, but a tragedy changes Lexie's life forever. Fifty-odd years later, Elina, a painter, faces her own struggles: she recently had a son with her boyfriend, Ted, and, after a rough child-birth, Ted and Elina struggle to recalibrate their relationship as it evolves into parenthood. While O'Farrell brings Lexie to life, she does not achieve the same with Elina and Ted, who come across as just another bland couple facing the challenges of having a child. The two plots are, naturally, connected, but the contemporary plot doesn't really get moving until too late in the book. If the contemporary storyline was developed half as well as the historical plot, this would be a wonderful book. As it is, it feels lighter than it should.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Well written, complicated, sad, but different...
I don't usually write reviews. I read sporadically when I've got time and always look for something different, new and interesting.
This book is really well written, there is a lot of beautiful details and its very descriptive, so much so that I felt what Soho must have been like in the 50s... I almost put the book down after the start as quite early in the book it confesses that the main character, Lexie, will die young... It was too sad to have this piece of information pre-emptied... But I am glad I didn't, I carried on reading and getting more and more involved into the complexity of character's lives. There is nothing more intriguing and beautiful that people's stories.. However, I feel the book has too much sadness... Even though it tries to offer an open and positive ending...
Beautifully written is spot-on!
I find reviewing anything difficult because I would hate to spoil it. It suffices to say that Maggie O'Farrell writes with such competency that it is almost impossible not to feel Soho on whizz-bang 1950's evening or north London in the hot and tiring present. What stuck me most was how much this book truly defines the term "page turner" as I was halfway through before I knew it! A fantastic read, well worth the money. Can't wait to read more of Maggie's work.
The hand that first held mine
A truly beautiful read. I read this book on a weekend break and couldn't put it down. I cried at the end and it was one of those books that you just did not want to finish. Maggie O Farrell at her very best!!.