The Hand That First Held Mine: A Novel
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)|
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 wears duck-egg blue ties and 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. She creates many lives—all of them unconventional. 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.
Here Maggie O’Farrell brings us a spellbinding novel of two women connected across fifty years by art, love, betrayals, secrets, and motherhood. 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 has a singular knack for sensing the magnetic fields that push and pull people in love, and in The Hand That First Held Mine, she summons those invisible forces to tell two stories. The first is the spirited journey of Lexie Sinclair, a bright, tempestuous woman who finds her way from rural Devon to the center of postwar London’s burgeoning art scene. Her force of personality makes her a natural critic (she’s a wonderful tour guide to Soho’s Bohemian circles), and she soon falls deeply in love. Fast forward fifty years and you’ll meet Ted and Elina: a contemporary London couple who’ve just had their first child, both afflicted with a crisis of memory—Elina can recall only bits and pieces of her life before the baby, while Ted fights off memories he can’t even recognize. O’Farrell alternates these plots artfully, always keeping the incorrigible Lexie in forward motion, while letting Ted and Elina wade further back in time. Inevitably, the two stories collide, and the result is a remarkably taut and unsentimental whole that embraces the unpredictable, both in love and in life. —Anne Bartholomew