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Summary

An unforgettable novel of love and motherhood from best-selling author Maggie O'Farrell.

Winner of the 2010 Costa Novel Award and a Sunday Times best seller, 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 50 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 listeners say about The Hand That First Held Mine

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amazing

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

7 people found this helpful

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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.

6 people found this helpful

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Solid without being exceptional

A perfectly fine novel but not one that grabbed me. one issue was that I was much more interested in one narrative than another (I liked the 2000s narrative to the 1960s/70s one). I found the older narrative much less gripping and the character less rounded.

3 people found this helpful

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Too long.

The first two thirds of this book proved a very mundane listening experience. It wasn’t till the last chapters that everything came together and the characters actually sparked my interest. Up to that time, I found the writing and the story quite tedious. I was glad when I finished and wouldn’t recommend it.

2 people found this helpful

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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

4 people found this helpful

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  • 04-09-21

enthralling

Maggie O'Farrell is a wonderful story teller. This is about love and living and motherhood and childhood, a particular era and place. The performance was excellent.

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It’s like a thriller

As always beautifully written historically accurate full of detailed and interesting characters. Takes awhile to get into and sometimes the juxtaposition of the two stories slightly awkward Have a good read recommended

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average

I found the narrator's voice a bit annoying. story took a while to get into.

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Slow start but ultimately a moving story

Beautiful story-telling, excellent narration. Not as compelling as I was expecting but a wonderful story of motherhood and loss.

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Brutal - think twice if you have young children

The writing is good, the performance is good, but I’m afraid the themes of the story were too much for me. The descriptions of birth and early motherhood were painful to listen to because of their accuracy, and the main storyline is just incredibly upsetting. The main character and her contemporaries are very likeable and you invest in them but I didn’t find i connected as much to the present day storyline/characters. It’s not a bad book but it’s not for me.