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The Hand That First Held Mine 2010 is Maggie O Farrell s poetic, extremely moving and very human story of memory, motherhood and emotions O Farrell tells us the stories of two couples Lexie and Innes, in the 1950s and Ted and Elina in the present day both with a London setting and both stories linked First Held Mine is a novel which is very up close and personal and unflinchingly so It s a story ostensibly about relationships family and memory distorted or otherwise providing a heady mix of birth and death, love and hate, truth and lies O Farrell has written a well constructed novel, with well drawn and believable characters, which is certainly engaging and very compelling Whilst O Farrell s novels may not be considered ostensibly perhaps very literary in some circles First Held Mine is a deceptively simply, yet poetically told story and is none the less satisfying for that Recommended. Oh no, another favourite author releasing a new title cue the sickening feelings of anxiety when I settle into the story , wondering if it will meet my expectations but any fears are quickly assuaged as I become immersed in this, Maggie O Farrell s fifth novel I devoured it in a few sittings one of those books you are eager to embrace but loath to leave.Like it s predecessor, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, there is a cleverly woven dual narrative, one set in the 1950s 1960s in Bohemian London and the contemporary story, again set in London In the 50s setting, Lexie leaves the bucolic setting of her family home in Devon at the tender age of 21, intent on finding a new life in London She meets and is seduced by Innes Kent, a seemingly most unsuitable partner and they fall for each other, working together on a magazine in Soho From an, at times, irritating ingenue Lexie develops into a strong, independent woman working her way up in the male dominated sector of journalism It s fair to say that life does not treat her that kindly she becomes a single mother without any family support, her family disowns her when she takes up with Innes The modern day story focuses on Elina, a Finnish painter who lives with her partner, Ted When we first encounter Elina she seems to be suffering some sort of post traumatic disorder following a particuarly harrowing emergency caesarean birth and to begin with, motherhood does not sit very well with her especially as she seems to have blotted out all memories of giving birth Later, Ted is the one to suffer flashbacks of suppressed memories and you start to wonder if this couple can withstand the immediate changes brought to the dynamic of their relationship by the arrival of the Baby I must say, it s refreshing to see a novelist showing how new parenthood can cause a seismic shift in a partnership it doesn t matter what class you are, how old you are, being a parent makes you feel vulnerable.There is a link between these two stories, a connection which gradually reveals itself as the novel progresses with a series of teasing hints and clues sprinkled in the narrative However, I feel that the bridge between the two stories is less important than the common themes which colour both there is love, romantic love, platonic love, maternal love, paternal love, infatuation, passion, contentment in another s company There is loss and grief and how we deal with such facts of life There is the recurrent motif of family secrets and lies which can cloud future generations Maggie O Farrell is an expert at portraying well rounded, feisty female characters but here she also succeeds in capturing a very strong sense of male sensibilities via Ted and also Innes It certainly serves to create a balanced storyline to have both male and female perspectives, especially how the different male characters react to fatherhood.It s clear that Maggie O Farrell has done her research I could sense the sounds, sights and smells of 50s Soho and in the modern day setting, I could empathise with the trauma of an emergency caesarean and the slightly surreal atmosphere which accompanies the arrival of your first child She has a lightness of touch which tempers the research and lets the narrative flow Yes, it s a novel which deals with a lot of sadness and grief but there is a feeling of optimism, of looking ahead also which lifts it from the doldrums So, not that I m impatient but.when will we get the next novel I don t think I can wait another four years. 4.7, rounded up because I just had toThis writer, this Maggie O Farrell, just wow I ve never read five books by any writer before and I did this all within a year what That should give you a hint of how ga ga I am over Maggie dearest Can I call her Maggie, please, as if we re all chummy chummy, since I want to be What did I like about this book Well, just about everything It is 100 percent absorbing It has the required good characters, plot, and pacing The characters have depth and they re relatable And is it really me talking when I say her descriptions are fantastic If you know me, you probably know that scenery is often a hot item on my Complaint Board I never ever require scenery I ve had my fill of raindrops on a maple leaf, thank you very much But Maggie seduces me with how she uses her pen as a paintbrush With just a few quick, and what seem to be effortless, strokes, she sits her characters down into a space that s so vivid it makes my head happy There I visualize the London settings perfectly, and I didn t even have to jump through head hoops to see it But take all of the list of good qualities and add an item to the top, and that s the beauteous language, which mesmerized me because of its art but also because it stirred me up and made me feel for her characters THAT S what keeps me gushing.Two stories take turns One is about Lexie, who escapes a boring rural life and finds herself in the Bohemian scene of 1950s London She falls in love, and I think it s that rich relationship I ll remember the most about this book The other story takes place 50 years later It s about a new mother Elina, who lives with her boyfriend, Ted both are angsty, but for different reasons The book is about love both romantic and maternal and the intricacies of relationships And it s about grief, jealousy, and memory It s a long time before you see how the two stories are related, but when the connection is revealed, it s a humdinger Oh so cool and satisfying It s always fun when you can relate to the stories, and I could relate to both When I was 18, I semi dramatically left suburban New Jersey for the big city of Boston I didn t exactly fall into the Bohemian life like Lexie did, I was like a hippie with waitressing jobs , but like her I became counter culture and never looked back And Elina s story of motherhood reminded me of my days as a new mother, all the pushes and pulls, the doubts and fatigue, the love you just can t make sense of Don t worry though you ll love this book even if you ve never been a mom I have to add two other good things to the list I like how Maggie foreshadows I think some people get annoyed when they learn early on that something dramatic is going to happen, like why did you have to go and ruin the surprise But I usually see it as artful it adds suspense because you don t yet know how it s all going to go down In this book, I loved the foreshadow, the tease, and I thought I had it figured out but no way.The other good thing is that O Farrell makes amazing, seamless transitions No matter how often she switched scenes, I was not confused, and I was happy to be where I landed.Whenever I start one of O Farrell s books, right off the bat I m pulled in I rub my hands together in excitement as I enter her imaginary world Check out this paragraph, which is a few pages in from the beginningThe garden waits The trees wait The seagull, balancing in the sky above the washing, waits And then, just as if this is a stage set and there is an audience, watching from a hushed dark, there are voices Noises off Somebody screams, another person shouts, something heavy hits the floor The back door of the house is wrenched open I can t bear it I tell you, I can t the someone shrieks The back door is slammed, resoundingly, and a person appears I see that all I can do is gush, so I might as well stop You ve heard one gush, you ve heard them all But I can t help myself let me just end by saying I think Maggie O Farrell is the perfect storyteller She is pure story she is never preachy, she doesn t take you on unnecessary side trips, she doesn t go all philosophical, and her endings are satisfying One of my favorite authors, hands down P.S This book is my third favorite book by O Farrell It s only topped by The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and her memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am Seventeen Brushes with Death both books made my all time favorites list Try all three, please Any fiction novel which follows the five or six literary fiction novels I have just finished may well have big shoes to fill but The Hand That First Held Mine held it s own I do so love it when an author combines combines real people into their story After reading this novel, I half expect if I pore over the photographs by John Deakin I shall find images of Lexie and Innes And likewise, if I go to Soho, I shall find on Bayton Street the faded chalk writing of the word elsewhere in front of the building where Innes magazine was housed Indeed, the line between fact and fiction is blurred even when you realise that one of Deakin s photographs is used for the cover of the book I actually spent the whole of the novel wondering if it was really Lexie pictured there as the caption is simply Girl in Cafe Also featured from 1960s Soho is the famed Colony Room owned by Muriel Belcher, an autocratic and temperamental woman who also appears in the story Such is the gift of Maggie O Farrell she has an incredible talent of weaving fact with fiction she makes the whole story very personable She did so in The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox unmanageable daughters were indeed sent into convents homes and simply disappeared from families in the early 1900s And she does so in The Hand That First Held Mine.This novel opens in Devon, mid 1950s, with a chance meeting between Lexie and a Londoner called Innes Forward a few months and Lexie has traveled to London, reconnected with Innes, the proprietor of the magazineelsewhere , become his fledgling reporter and his lover It s the bohemian art scene and under Innes tutelage, Lexie soon carves out a niche for herself as an art critic Forward some 50 years and young couple Ted and Elina are new parents While Elina struggles with first time motherhood, it s Ted s whose life is really wavering The strange almost trance like moments he had as a child have returned He s subject to odd memories that appear to have nothing to do with his early life as he knows it and they start to occur fairly frequently.Of course, the two narratives are very differently paced 1950s Soho is a vibrant, burgeoning fast paced scene while Elina s days of new motherhood are hazy, sleep deprived and slow In O Farrell s usual manner, the story is very well researched Soho in the 1950s comes alive for the reader as does new parentage in the new millennium for those not yet initiated into that role The beauty of The Hand That First Held Mine is it s most unexpected twist Most will presume, as I did, how the past will connect with the present but the author has a couple of wild cards up her sleeve The story is quintessential O Farrell her prose evocative and resonant and I find it hard to fault I found the portrait of Soho, the magazine world and the art scene truly fascinating and O Farrell does acknowledge the book Soho in the Fifties and Sixties by Jonathan Fryer as one of her references Definitely 4 here. In sneltreinvaart uitgelezentwee verhalen die met elkaar verbonden zijn in heden en verleden Soms ietwat quasi intellectueel, maar zo goed geschreven dat je meegetrokken wordt in het verhaal en alleen maar door wil lezenRelatie s en moederschap zijn de overheersende thema sprachtige roman This book left me breathless, gulping, and sobbing Maggie O Farrell is a master of story, structure, and my god, transitions But that is stuff writers swoon over For readers there is a great story of family connections that transcend known facts It s about the truths we intuit and how they can nag, direct, and torture us until we bring them into consciousness and the now A wonderful book By the way, the Kindle edition also has a wonderful short story called The House I Live In an appropriate addition to this novel. Although choosing a favourite author is tough, when forced to do so I would often than not, answer with Maggie O Farrell as mine I find her style of writing beautiful, almost melodic and so incredibley descriptive and evocative of the senses that you really feel like you step into the world of the characters whilst reading.However, this was based on her first three books, and I have to say that despite being SO excited for the release of The Vanishing Act of Esme May only book I ve ever pre ordered I wasn t as enthralled as I d hoped In fact I was quite disappointed afterwards Now with the release of The Hand That First Held Mine it feels like Maggie O Farrell has conciously changed paths as an author, now prefering to write historical fiction based in past worlds and decades I totally respect her decision to do this but personally, I feel she has lost the edge and suspense and pase her previous books had.The Hand That First Held Mine follows two seperate stories of female characters living in London in different decades fifty years apart told side by side Lexi is a frustrated country girl of the 1950s, who gives up her family and home to escape to the bright lights of London and in it finds love, a career and what it is to lose them In the modern day, Elina is a Finnish girl living in London with her boyfriend Ted The complicated arrival of their baby stirs lost feelings and memories in both of them, and pushes their relationship to breaking point as they both scramble to do the best for their newborn son Although both stories play out seperately small clues and tiny blink and you ll miss them hints sewn into each story slowly reveal that perhaps there is intertwining them than first meets the eyeAs I said, Maggie O Farrell writes poetically and this book is no different The book is also incredibly realistic and well researched from the descriptions of bustling Soho to the uncomfortable rawness of how parenthood can be intensely wonderful but also twist and challenge lives and relationships The book taps into an obsession of mine which is thinking about what buildings were in previous incarnations before my lifetime in London, and what they would have looked like and everything that happened in them and on the roads outside I love thinking about who walked down the same streets as me and what they were doing and wearing and thinking Maggie O Farrell writes this into the book beautifully However the reason this isn t a 5 review is just that I felt the storylines were slightly predictable and clumsy in parts Shock occurances leap from nowhere in places and then nothing happens for chapter after chapter In particular I felt Elinas storyline very repetative and sluggish, compared to Lexis vibrant almost too drama packed life I m sure this juxtaposition was intended but I felt it really jarred sometimes and I d be tempted to flick past Elinas sections to get back to the 1950s I would definitely recommend this book for reading, as it s another high quality book from an extremely talented author, but I would also say if you ve never read a Maggie O Farrell novel that it d be better to start with The Distance Between or My Lovers Lover which I consider up there in my favourite ever books. Mi primer acercamiento a Maggie O Farrell no ha podido ser mejor, me ha encantado. Edited to make correction Originally read Aug, 25, 2014 I loved this novel mostly because of the writing Yes, I loved the story and the characters too, but from the exquisite opening paragraph it was all about the writing 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 Something amazing does happen to Lexie and Innes, the characters we first meet Something happened to this reader, as well I found myself so immersed in the language and the story to come, from these first words to the very last It s told with these seemingly simple sentences that are strung together so beautifully to describe the places where they are and to take you into the minds and hearts of these characters.Maggie O Farrell opens up to us the London of the 1950 s the arts scene in Soho and you feel as if you are in that city and in that magazine office with Lexie and Innes and you are privy to their aspirations for its success and privy to the profound love they share Fifty years later we meet Elina and Ted, a couple struggling to come to terms with becoming parents Elina, after an extremely difficult, life threatening childbirth experience seems lost You experience her pain and her exhaustion and her helplessness.Ted is having a difficult time both emotionally and mentally, even physically, trying to remember something from his past and you can almost feel his pain.So many recent books tell past and present stories that are somehow linked The alternating narratives of Lexie Innes and Elina and Ted are also connected, but the convergence of these stories, felt different, smoother, skillfully and beautifully achieved than any other book using this mechanism that I have read Maybe it was the story itself that touched me or maybe it was all about the detailed poetic language Maybe it was both I can only say that I was deeply touched by these characters and their story.One of my favorites of the year so far And then at the end there s a bonus, as if this perfect novel wasn t enough The e book version on for kindle includes a beautifully written, heartbreaking short story, The House I Live In. ^Read Ebook ⇵ The Hand That First Held Mine ↟ A Spellbinding Novel Of Two Women Connected Across Fifty Years By Art, Love, Betrayals, Secrets, And MotherhoodLexie 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 Disconcerting And Frequent, It Seems That Something Might Connect These Two Stories These Two Women Something That Becomes All The 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