Monday, March 25, 2013

“Listen. The trees in this story are stirring, trembling, readjusting themselves. A breeze is coming in gusts off the sea, and it is almost as if the trees know, in their restlessness, in their head-tossing impatience, that something is about to happen.”

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell 
341 pages 
Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary: Told from two distinct perspectives, The Hand That First Held Mine follows Lexie Sinclair, a twenty-something who made the move to London during the 1950’s, and Ted and Elina, a couple from the present day.

Review: I first discovered Maggie O’Farrell a few years ago when I found The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox in a bargain bin at a local book store. I read the book with rapt attention, barely pulling myself away long enough to get other things done, so I went into The Hand That First Held Mine with extremely high expectations. Fortunately, this book held my attention just as well as my first foray into O'Farrell's body of work, and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

The characters were extremely well-drawn, and I was fascinated by both stories. Lexie was independent and brave, and following her transition from a small town to the big city was very exciting, indeed. She makes plenty of mistakes along the way, as all twenty-somethings do, and watching her grow into an even more resilient person was a pleasure.

The storyline feature Elina and Ted was also quite interesting. I really liked puzzling together what happened to Elina when she couldn’t remember anything about the birth of her child, while also trying to figure out what memories Ted was repressing. This provided an incredibly interesting dynamic, and their story was quite complex, as was their relationship.

I had a feeling the storylines tied together somehow, and when I finally figured out what was going on, I think I may have audibly exclaimed “Oh my god!” All of the clues and pieces of the puzzle left throughout the text made perfect sense, and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t pick up on it before.

O’Farrell does an incredible job with character development and suspense, her writing is lovely, and you will run the gamut of emotions while reading her books. If you like literary fiction that will make you think, while also delving into the lives of an incredible cast of real, imperfect characters, give The Hand That First Held Mine a try. I think I have a new favorite author.

Rating: 4/5

Other Books by Maggie O’Farrell: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, After You’d Gone, The Distance Between Us, My Lover’s Lover, Instructions for a Heat Wave