The Hand that First Held Mine

Maggie O'Farrell

The Hand that First Held Mine

When the bohemian, sophisticated Innes Kent turns up by chance 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 for herself, with Innes at her side. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina, a painter, struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood, memories that don't tally with his parents' version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, so an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected. 3.8 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
The Hand that First Held Mine

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 352
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication April 2010
ISBN 978-0755308453
Publisher Headline
 

When the bohemian, sophisticated Innes Kent turns up by chance 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 for herself, with Innes at her side. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina, a painter, struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood, memories that don't tally with his parents' version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, so an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected.

Reviews

The Observer

Elizabeth Day

O'Farrell weaves the plots together with ease but also manages to ratchet up the tension. And yet the pace of the book is never achieved at the cost of its poetry… O'Farrell has a remarkable ability to convey the texture of human emotion with precision. In The Hand That First Held Mine, she also demonstrates a masterful gift for storytelling.

25/04/2010

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The Washington Post

Heller McAlpin

Mesmerizing, enormously satisfying … "The Hand That First Held Mine" evokes Shirley Hazzard's 1980 masterpiece, "The Transit of Venus"

12/05/2010

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The Scotsman

Peggy Hughes

The denouement, sad to report, hurtles into view with no element of surprise, however carefully plotted. Rather, it is O'Farrell's deft execution to which admiration is due. As well as meandering soliloquies and internal monologues, bounteous description peppers the narrative, lending it a cinematic quality.

20/04/2010

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The Financial Times

Ed Wood

A novel that plays to all of her strengths... Elina’s story feels fresh and universal, thanks to O’Farrell’s acuity at describing the transformative experience of becoming a mother… However, the device of Ted’s returning memories jars in its overt fictionality beside the realism of Elina’s motherly trials.

17/05/2010

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The Guardian

Sarah Crown

[With her last novel] the bar was duly raised; what a pleasure, then, to see her here comfortably vaulting it… There are moments of weakness … for all the brilliance of O'Farrell's depictions of new motherhood, the historical plot outshines and unbalances the contemporary one. But the emotional heart of the book is sound, its clout undiminished. Maggie O'Farrell is a skilful, hurtful writer, capable of imbuing the everyday with weight and colour, ridiculously pleasurable to read.

29/05/2010

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The Literary Review

Marcella Edwards

O’Farrell’s detail is excellent. Each life – Lexie’s in the Fifties and Sixties and Elina’s in the Noughties – is painted as intricately as a miniature. However, while her focus is acute, her chapters are often frustratingly short: for the first half of the book, it’s hard to get enough of an emotional handle on the characters… It’s when the two stories begin to fuse together, in the second half of the novel, that O’Farrell hits her stride. From here on, although the twists can be seen coming, the novel pelts along, genuinely unputdownable.

01/04/2010

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The Daily Mail

Helen Brown

The rather dreary postpartum story of Finnish artist Elina in 21st-century London is the one you'll be tempted to skip to get to the parts about glamourous journalist Lexie Sinclair… Although you may resent the ease with which O'Farrell pulls your emotional strings, this book will still leave your stomach in knots.

30/04/2010

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The Sunday Telegraph

Catherine Taylor

O’Farrell is a skilful, impassioned writer who has employed a liberal use of coincidence and suspense to haunting effect in previous books. This new work, although it contains some powerful passages, is more uneven.

16/05/2010

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The Sunday Times

Lucy Atkins

In this characteristically intense novel, O’Farrell has family emotions, secrets and passions swirling about in the claustrophobic historical present tense. But the drama, although there is plenty to enjoy here, never quite takes off.

23/05/2010

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