“Alternating chapters tell the story of two women in London in two very different times: Lexie, the journalist in post-war London, and Elina, a new mother struggling with her baby and her boyfriend in the present day. The portraits of these women are spellbinding in their depth of understanding, and the way O'Farrell weaves them together is dazzling.”
— Jude Sales, Readers' Books, Sonoma, CA
From the best-selling author of Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait comes a spellbinding novel of two women connected across fifty years by art, love, betrayals, secrets, and motherhood.
"An exquisitely sensual tale of love, motherhood, and other forms of madness, The Hand That First Held Mine will unsettle, move, and haunt you." —Emma Donoghue, author of Room
Lexie 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 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. 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 more disconcerting and more frequent, it seems that something might connect these two stories—these two women—something that becomes all the more heartbreaking and beautiful as they all hurtle toward its revelation.
Praised by The Washington Post as a “breathtaking, heart-breaking creation,” The Hand That First Held Mine is a gorgeous and tenderly wrought story about the ways in which love and beauty bind us together. 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.
MAGGIE O'FARRELL was born in Northern Ireland in 1972. Her novels include The Marriage Portrait, Hamnet (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), After You'd Gone, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine, and Instructions for a Heatwave. She has also written a memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death. She lives in Edinburgh.
"O’Farrell brings to mind Sue Miller but with a British and darker flavor; her sure hand for psychological suspense . . . continues to be most impressive." —Library Journal "Maggie O’Farrell’s cinematically vivid novel is moody and powerful and plotted at a breakneck pace. This book, like life, will disarm you with its unannounced twists and tragedies and moments of unexpected beauty. She delivers to readers that rarest of experiences—total emotional investment. Hers is a brilliant feat of prose marksmanship—also, it made me cry on the subway." —Heidi Julavits, author of The Effect of Living Backwards and The Uses of Enchantment "Maggie O’Farrell knows how to weave a bewitching tale, both thrilling and poetic. The Hand That First Held Mine will no doubt enrapture you, just as it has me." —Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key "An exquisitely sensual tale of love, motherhood, and other forms of madness, The Hand That First Held Mine will unsettle, move, and haunt you." —Emma Donoghue, author of Slammerkin "Maggie O’Farrell deftly depicts the long-after shocks of death, betrayal, and life-changing love as her richly complicated characters play out an immensely satisfying plot. The Hand That First Held Mine is a dazzling and absorbing novel." —Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street "Maggie O’Farrell is an uncommonly perceptive writer, and The Hand That First Held Mine is an unforgettable story of family, ambition, and love. I couldn’t stop thinking about it long after I read the final page." —Lauren Grodstein, author of A Friend of the Family —