The Hand That First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell

Two tales, one set in the 50's, one in the present day, told in alternate chapters but eventually connecting. In the first, Lexie is a young woman who, having been sent down from university, moves to London and finds love and a career, working as a journalist. In the second, Elina is struggling to come to terms with motherhood, having nearly died while giving birth.

Like her other books, this was beautifully written. Her descriptions are so good, and take you right there. As soon as it starts, with a description of Lexie in her garden at home, you feel transported back into the past, and the summer, and the outdoors. I was reading another book (Love and Devotion) at the same time as this one, and the contrast between the two was striking: in L&D, things are described by stringing together a load of mundane adjectives. Here, there are similes, metaphors, and thought-provoking comparisons, which are so much more effective.

Both Lexie and Elina have babies, and these are very well done - how you can only get them comfortable and going to sleep if you make yourself uncomfortable; how their faces can have expressions which make them look really wise or thoughtful; how much they disrupt your life.

I didn't find the stories quite so involving as the writing, but they were good. And the last line of the book caught me short and brought a tear to my eye.

Very good.

Completed : 03-Sep-2011

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