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by Anne Flosnik,Maggie O' Farrell

Lexie Sinclair yearns for more than her parents' genteel country life. She makes her way to the city, where she meets a magazine editor, Innes, a man unlike any she has ever imagined. He introduces her to the thrilling world of bohemian postwar London, and Lexie learns to become a reporter, to know art and artists, to live fully, unconventionally, and with deep love. And when she finds herself pregnant by a man wholly unsuitable for marriage or fatherhood, she doesn't hesitate a minute to have the baby on her own. Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood. Her boyfriend, Ted, traumatized by nearly losing her in labor, begins to recover lost memories. At first he cannot place them, but as they emerge, we discover something heartbreaking and beautiful that connects these two stories. A stunning portrait of motherhood and the artist's life in all their terror and glory, Maggie O'Farrell's newest novel 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.
Download The Hand That First Held Mine epub
ISBN: 1441729461
ISBN13: 978-1441729460
Category: Literature
Subcategory: British & Irish
Author: Anne Flosnik,Maggie O' Farrell
Language: English
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.; MP3CD Unabridged edition (April 12, 2010)
ePUB size: 1574 kb
FB2 size: 1618 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 196
Other Formats: lrf lrf mobi rtf

This novel portrays the lives of two women in different time periods in alternating chapters. They have no apparent connection, but the reader knows there must be one. Lexie Sinclair lives with a much older married man,Innes Kent, in London during in post-war London in the 1950s. She fails as a typist, but with Innes' help first becomes an editor and then becomes knowledgeable about art and become a reporter and writer about art.

Elina, a Finnish woman in London lives with her lover Ted decades later. She almost dies giving birth to their son. She has no memory of having given birth although she recalls having been pregnant. Much of her story focuses on her struggles in caring for the baby who cries frequently and keeps her from getting adequate sleep. Elina was an artist and wants to get back to painting. Ted is almost paralyzed by the gory birth experience and near loss of Elina. He has no memories of his life before he was about nine years old, but he begins to recover lost memories after the birth of their baby. These memories disturb him greatly.

I found the first half of the book to be rather boring and I came close to abandoning it. Most reviewers seem to have enjoyed the chapters about Lexie more than those about Elina and Ted. However, I preferred the ones that focused on Ted and Elina. Overall though I was just plodding through the book. I figured out some of the outcomes, because the author told us in advance. I figured out the major connection between the two stories about 64% into the book. After that, I thought both stories became more interesting.
I like this author. I have read other books by her and very much enjoyed them. When our book club selected this one, I looked forward to it. Where do I begin...the book reads like a script for a movie, down to describing the slightest nuance of a scene, which I found boring. There are two stories from different time periods and there doesn't seem to be a connection between them. About mid book when I was about to give up, the connection began to appear. Since I have read a lot of mysteries, I pretty much buttoned it up right away. So many readers are astounded and surprised by the ending. I didn't experience that at all. In fact, I like a book to end with a bit more revelation and this book was missing that.
I loved Maggie O'Farrell's last two novels, so I purchased this older one, "The Hand That First Held Mine", assuming I would enjoy it as well. And I did!

There are two separate stories; one involves Lexie and Innes, young and in love in post-war London, the second is set in present day involving Elina and Ted, new parents after a difficult life-threatening birthing experience.

Other than taking place in London, what in the world do these two couples have to do with each other? It will take a while to be revealed, but it's worth it.
A young yet successful artist immigrates to England from Finland, falls in love and has a baby with her English landlord. It's a difficult birth and both Elina and Ted are reeling from its aftermath. Elina feels alone and confused by Ted's isolating behavior. Ted is just as lost by his behavior. Seeing Elina almost bleed out after her C-section has triggered fear and old remembrances that he can't quite hold onto keep coming unburied yet he can't seem to hold onto the connections so he plunges even more into his work leaving his partner and child on their own.

The opening chapters were scintillating. There were shiny bits and surprises and odd juxtapositions everywhere. It kept me on the edge of my seat. This first couple, Lexie and Innes, are just as in love as Elina and Ted. Lexie and Innes are running a paper with other friends in the heart of Soho beginning in the 1950's. They are energized and you can sense the post war renewal of hope in these young people who live for jazz and avant-garde art and to share their passions about both. Sadly Innes, the WW II vet, is already married and has a child. Lexie can't resist him and unconventionally moves in with him. They have an idyllic few years together before the world crashes into their little flat and into paper their run. The adventure of this book is working out the relationship between the 1950/60's and the now. O'Farrell does this with a great deal of suspense. It's an enjoyable book.

I have to mention the book cover artwork as well because it's so well done and relevant to the story. The outer jacket has a beautiful strawberry blonde with curling hair on a sheer green-blue background. Beneath that, embossed onto the book is a dark haired more solemn yet just as lovely woman set just in front of the blonde. Though it you can just make out the ghost of the dark haired woman. It's one of the best covers I've seen in awhile.
Small Black
With an understated but clear writing style, Maggie O'Farrell writes about finding love, the essence of being female and embracing motherhood. This is a story that follows two women, a generation apart in age who share a passion for their work and motherhood. Each has a dynamic personality and is easy to care about. Although both stories are engaging, personally I found Lexie's story more compelling. She is a free spirited soul, who at 19 moves to 1950's London, lives her life with passion, discovers her true self and develops into a remarkably talented woman. The other is Elina whose story revolves around a difficult childbirth and the struggles of early parenthood. Maggie O'Farrell does an outstanding job describing the postpartum period a woman experiences and also the major impact a baby has on a new mother and a marriage. One thing that bothered me was until the end when everything merged together, I felt like I was reading two unrelated short stories in alternating chapters. Trying to discern the connection between the two was distracting, at least for me. In summary, a fascinating story with many twists that will have appeal to those who appreciate a more literary writing style and engaging characters. Winner of the 2010 Costa Award.