The Hand That First Held Mine

In the novel The Hand That First Held Mine (published on April 12, 2010), Maggie O'Farrell interweaves two seemingly unconnected stories: that of Lexie Sinclair, living in post-WWII London, and Elina Vilkuna, a denizen of present-day London.

The story develops when Alexandra Sinclair (renamed Lexie by the love of her life, Innes Kent) leaves her traditional family and moves to London. The setting is bohemian post war London in the 1950's when most women lived with their families or boarding houses for women only. Lexie is unconventional: she is ahead of her time, independent, and passionate and wants to carve a niche for herself. With the help and high powered love of Innes, she becomes knowledgeable about art and turns herself into a credible reporter. She works hard and is rewarded with like-minded friends. Tragedy befalls her and eventually she ends up an "unwed" mother out of choice. Throughout her travails, she holds onto her passion for Innes and confidence in herself as a mother and journalist.

Decades later, another woman in London, has a near death experience giving birth to her son, Jonah. Elina is also not married but is a loyal, bright companion to Ted, the father of her child. She is also an artist and has a solid understanding of contemporary art and its value. Ted, who is nearly paralyzed by nearly losing Elina during labor, begins to recover lost memories. These memories traumatize him and he experiences deep loss.

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.


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