Ever since reading my first Maggie O'Farrell book, After You'd Gone, I have been devoted to this author and her writing - each book I read becomes my new favourite of hers and The Hand That First Held Mine is no exception - I have only just finished it but all I want to do is go back and read it all over again.
The book tells the alternate stories of Lexie Sinclair, a country girl who moves to London in the 1950's with her lover and the modern day story of Elina and Ted who have just had their first child and are adjusting to all that comes with that significant and dramatic life change.
In some ways this book covers everyday topics, love, birth, relationships, work but it is the way that it approaches them that makes the book so magical. Each of the characters and story lines are infused with emotion - not a kind of soppy, soap opera emotion but the emotion of everyday lives and actions. I found the scenes where Elina first comes home with her newborn boy raw and honest;
If she could just sleep, everything would be all right. Just a stretch of three hours, four maybe. She is so tired that if she turns her head there is a crackling sound, like someone crumpling paper. But she keeps moving. She moves around the kitchen, past the cooker, past the kettle, past the answerphone, which is telling her she has no fewer than thirteen messages, round by the fridge and back, an ache pulsing in her temples.
The two stories eventually come together in a way I honestly did not see coming - but even if I had it would not have ruined the story for me in any way - because I saw the coming together of the two stories as really the whole point. I was crying at the end - something that I rarely do in novels.
I am now in a cover dilemma as I do want to buy a copy of this for myself. The cover on sale in Australia is the one at the top of this post (and this is growing on me...) but the cover of the copy I read from my library, and the one I do love the most I think, is below;
Dilemma!! Which one do you like best?
Oh - and make sure you read this book - whatever cover you choose!