Book Review – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

First published, 2009

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

A new friend suggested I start reading Maggie O’Farrell when she joined my book club. Kate is now my favourite new friend. I love Maggie O’Farrell’s writing.

Her use of language is delicious. I look up and several days have passed, unnoticed, because I’ve been completely absorbed. There is poetry and pathos galore and I know her characters inside out because, with the description of a look or the movement of a hand, I know everything about them. She has such a gift for observation.

In The Hand That First Held Mine, we meet two women, separated by time.

Lexie is an outgoing young woman in the 1950s. She leaves Devon for London, almost on the spur of the moment, as is captivated by Soho and a very charming man called Innes. Lexie is very forward-thinking and has a fair few relationships which would shock and alarm her parents, if they were still speaking to her. However, she has that gutsy, get-on-with-it attitude which I so admire.

Elina is a Finn, living in modern London with her chap. When we first meet her, she is astonished to find herself with a baby. She has been pregnant, she remembers much of the pregnancy, the shopping, the books she has read, her excitement, but she has missed the birth. Her chap, Ted, has watched a harrowing birth and the near-loss of his girlfriend and, as the story moves forward, is unsettled by long-lost memories of his own childhood, which have only come back to him in pieces, since the birth of his son.

I suspect much of the stories, as regards babies and the anxieties of motherhood, would resonate more with parents. I don’t fall into that bracket, but the writing kept me on the edge of my seat. I’ll not ruin the story for you but it’s a tremendous read. At the end, I sat back, breathless.

Read this.