"Mesmerizing, enormously satisfying . . . An uncommonly gripping and moving read." —Washington Post
"Extraordinary . . . O'Farrell is a confident writer, relying on subtlety and economy . . . O'Farrell has written a book that is not only beautiful and moving--it's saucy." —NPR.org
Q&A with Maggie O'Farrell
What made you want to write this book?
A few years ago, I attended an exhibition of John Deakin's photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Many of them were portraits of people
in Soho in the 1950s: artists, writers, actors, musicians. Soho is an area of London that is famous for many things but I hadn't known that, for a short
time after the Second World War, it had been the centre of an artistic movement. The bohemian, underground world which thrived there so briefly and which
was captured so vividly by Deakin fascinated me. I began to conceive a story about a girl, Lexie, who arrives there from a very conventional home and
makes a life for herself as a journalist...
View the book trailer for The Hand That First Held Mine!
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, postwar 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 terms.
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 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.
The Hand That First Held Mine is 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.