Thursday, 5 May 2011

Maggie O'Farrell: The Hand that First Held Mine

I bought Maggie O’Farrell’s novel when it came out in paperback in February and have been saving it up to read while in Italy. I’m always a bit suspicious of books that win lots of prizes, particularly the Costa book awards, which sometimes seem to be a bit of a compromise choice. But not this book - ‘The Hand that First Held Mine’ deserves every prize going. This is an enthralling book - the characters are well-rounded and interesting (even the minor ones), the plot never takes a predictable route, and the ending is as satisfactory as you could ever wish (though I would have liked to inflict some kind of unpleasant punishment on Felix!).
Above all the story-telling is superb, right from the very first paragraph:-

‘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.’

What is about to happen is that Lexie, the young girl at the centre of the story, is going to bump into Innes Kent, an art collector and magazine owner, leave her suffocating family and go to London to seek her fortune in the 50s and 60s. Feisty and talented, she defies all the conventions of the time, lives openly with the man she loves, becomes a journalist and gives birth to a child as a single parent.

In the parallel plot, set  more than 30 years later, Elina is a young Finnish woman, an artist, who has just given birth to her first child. The birth was traumatic and Elina almost died. As she struggles to recover from the trauma, she realises that her partner, Ted, has been seriously disturbed by the birth and seems to be having some kind of breakdown, associated with flash-backs and dreams he can’t explain. Ted’s parents can’t answer any of his questions and in the end it is Elina who finds the truth.

This book is definitely one of my ‘best books’ of the year and one I want to read again.

1 comment:

  1. I have to read the book ‘The Hand that First Held Mine’ because I've received excellent recommendations, even more when I love to read that's my passion, I'd like to receive some other recommendations.