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Summary

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.

©2010 Maggie O'Farrell (P)2012 Headline Digital

Critic reviews

"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." ( Observer)
"Like Daphne du Maurier before her, Maggie O'Farrell writes books designed to stir up the female subconscious and bring our most primal fears to the surface... this book will leave your stomach in knots." ( Daily Mail)
"The journey this novel invites us on is wonderful, involving time travel, heartache, elation, confusion, freedom, nostalgia and art." ( Scotland on Sunday)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

amazing

such a great story so well read. first Maggie o Farrell for me but wont be the last.
beautiful x

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best one yet

I'm really enjoying reading my way through the works of Maggie O'Farrell - and I'd say this was the best yet. Beautifully interwoven stories, fascinating, frustrating, likeable, annoying characters and the detective game of working out how they are connected. Her descriptions are delicate, rhythmic and evocative - of the time I was born and the time I live in today.
Hugo recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Separate stories take too long to come together

It took many hours of listening, to largely descriptive writing, to arouse my interest in the lives of two couples whose separate stories alternate and switch back and forth in time. Having to keep readjusting to which couple’s life was being described and at which time in their lives added to my lack of engagement. The narratives focus too long on the relationships within each couple unanchored by time and place. Many chapters went by before I realised that Lexie and Innis met in the 1950s and Ted and Elina in the present century. After hours of mundane listening things did pick up, but not until the last 30 minutes or so of the recording do the two quite separate stories come together. There are two moderately interesting books in this one novel but the sum is less than the parts. The writing is good, but the disjointed nature of the book is a distraction.

The reader is good and did inject life into the characters

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointed after high expectations

The narrator's voice made it very tough going.. Some of the plot and details were not credible. I don't think the author had children when writing this book.

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Five star all round

This is a book that I will think about for a very long time. I loved it

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  • Jane
  • PRINCES RISBOROUGH, United Kingdom
  • 09-12-16

Oh dear

I had enjoyed another book by Maggie O'Farrell but, I'm afraid, not this one. A nice idea, of the two stories, but they took far too long of tedious detail to get to the point of bringing them together. Not sure that there was one character in the book that I liked, possibly because they were sketched out as caricatures rather than real people. O'Farrell also seems to write a lot of 'lists' to make her point which became a very over-worked mechanism. None of this was helped by the narrator having to 'perform' lots of dialogue within the book.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Clever writing

One of the best books I've "read" this year. A cleverly constructed plot, beautifully written & narrated.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful