Join Maggie O'Farrell to talk about THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, our May Book of the Month, on Wednesday 25th May, 8-9pm

(99 Posts)

May's Book of the Month is a book about motherhood - but in an unusual way. THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE is a beautifully crafted novel that weaves together two lives that are fifty years apart. Lexie lives in 1950s Soho, and is forging a life as a journalist in the bohemian, artistic neighbourhood. Elina is a modern day painter, also living in London, who has just had her first child. Each of their stories echoes the other, and connections keep appearing, leading to a suspense-driven climax. When declaring the book Winner of the 2010 Costa Novel Award, the judges described it as '"A book of grand themes and intimate moments. This gripping novel is the one we'd unreservedly recommend.'

You can read more about the book here.

We're delighted that Maggie will be joining us on Wednesday 25th May, 8-9pm, so don't forget to join us to ask Maggie about all her books, how she writes, her experiences of motherhood, what inspires her... See you then.

RunforFun Tue 10-May-11 12:46:59

I was wondering this too gazza

I'm deliberating whether or not to buy it or not, I dont really want to end up with 2 copies.

upyourdiva Tue 10-May-11 14:31:20

I saw this book advertised on here and decided to pick it up from the library which I did last week and finished it yesterday.

In all honesty I thought it seemed lazily written, the characters were vague and cold and the story seemed jumpy in many ways not just the past present plot because I understand that was to ensure we knew about Ted and to build on his past to bring in the dismal and obvious twist, but his relationship with Elina and the traumatic labour/newborn son seemed totally irrelevant and nothing but page filler.

I did however shed a tear reading the precise and honest account of Lexie's thoughts when the 'event' occurred but I don't really think this was supposed to be the high point of the book, the fact that the ending was sort of given away at the beginning makes this book a page t on lage urner for all the wrong reasons... to find out where it gets interesting! Which it does on page 312 before going straight back down again on page 316...

The ending is vague and pretty indecisive as seems to be the theme throughout the entire book spare a few pages here and there.

Overall it was just about a half decent read (because I finally started to get into Lexie's story) but not one I'd recommend or pick up again.

AlmaMartyr Wed 11-May-11 13:43:32

My copy from Headline has just arrived today. Looking forward to reading it on holiday, was just worrying that I wouldn't have anything to read because I haven't made it to the library!

Blatherskite Wed 11-May-11 15:49:42

Whoo hoo, I got a free copy. Will be ditching my current book to get started on reading it. It sounds good

MrsKwazii Wed 11-May-11 20:03:03

My free copy arrived today too. Am really looking forward to starting something new. Thank you v much!

gazzalw Wed 11-May-11 21:32:58

I missed the Postman this morning, have one of the red missed delivery cards and think I have one arriving shortly - fingers crossed! Exciting...happy reading!

Blatherskite Fri 13-May-11 13:55:56

I'm really enjoying it so far....

ShowOfHands Fri 13-May-11 21:20:17

It's interesting reading the reasons people didn't like it. Because for me those criticisms are some of the reasons I loved it. Stylistically it's very different to Maggie's other books but the sparse details, the immediacy,,the lack of concrete details (more impressionistic, like the art that was so thematically important), meant that you had to bring something of yourself to it. When I said it was close to home for me, I had a birth experience like Elina's and some tough memories of the early days and I thought the way Maggie had described that ethereal, dream-like quality of motherhood allowed or even required you to project a bit iyswim. I found it such a personal experience reading it. Like decent art or a well shot film, I had to give a bit of myself to it and it stayed with me afterwards.

And I don't think it was a twist was it? It was working towards an explanation of the how. I though you were supposed to know that Theo/Ted were one and the same.

QuickLookBusy Sat 14-May-11 16:03:43

Agree with you ShowofHands have just finished it for the second time. I think it is a wonderful book.

I really identified with both Ted and Elina. I had an e-cs and the vagueness Maggie describes really summed up those early weeks or even months perfectly.

My own mother left when I was 4 so the whole thing Ted goes through with the birth of the baby bringing memories to the surface, was very emotional for me to read.

I am so glad I have read this book.

I do wonder how/where Maggie did her research for this book or indeed if she has experienced any of the themes.

Looking forward to this chat very much - and remember to join us even if you haven't read/finished this particular novel. All questions on any of Maggie's books are welcome.

Speaking of which, I'm getting ready to send a few advance questions over, so do start to pop them up here, please...

PoohsMum Wed 18-May-11 11:00:20

Was lucky to get a free copy and I am quite pleased with the book. Its a good read, esp. in parts where it covers Elina's fuzzy emotions after her birth experience. Had a botched up c-section involving massive haemorrhage followed by horrible PND and the book captures the post delivery emotions bang on.

Lexie's thoughts during the 'incident' had me in tears. It's been a week since I finished the book and my thoughts keep going back to it.

Crumblemum Thu 19-May-11 22:58:31

Amazingly written book, great story and captures so beautifully the awe (both positive and negative) motherhood brings. Really is one of the best books I've read for years.

Am trying to think of a question rather than slavish praise so here goes - Maggie, do you ever have to fight the urge for a happy ending - even for the letters in the loft to have been preserved would have been a comfort - or are you always acutely aware it's a work of fiction and it's your duty to reader (and publisher) to add layers of drama (and often sorrow)?

MrsKwazii Fri 20-May-11 16:37:56

Have just finished the book. At first I really didn't enjoy the staccato style and the way that it seemed to be written like a screenplay - purely descriptive. It took me until about halfway through before I got used to it.

I enjoyed the toing and froing of the stories, and in my head Lexie looked like Joanie from Mad Men grin. I liked her characterisation, a woman ahead of her time and forging ahead on her own. I felt that the other characters were drawn quite superficially though.

I really felt for Margot. She obviously had a deep-seated need to be a mother, with attending sadness, and had been so manipulated that she was nothing but a puppet. V sad, with obvious knock-on effects for others.

Will have a think about a Q to ask. Hmmmmm

flakemummy Sat 21-May-11 17:59:40

Just finished this great book interesting twist carefully unfolded. i have also read a few others by this author and enjoyed them too.
Esme Lennox is next on my list now.

A quick reminder that we will be sending any advance questions to Maggie soon, so do pop them up here.

Looking forward to Wednesday, hope everyone can make it..

mrsbabookaloo Tue 24-May-11 21:45:46

Am embarrassed to confess that I haven't read any of Maggie O Farrell's books (yet!!), but wanted to link to this wonderful article she wrote about toddlers in 2005.

www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/mar/26/fiction.features

If you've ever had a two year old, read and enjoy....

QueenoftheWildThings Tue 24-May-11 22:18:30

Can't make it tomorrow, but so loved this book - loved the evocation of 50's Soho: excitement about art and ideas; Lexie escaping her family and making her way as an independent woman through Fleet Street at a time when women couldn' t progress in journalism easily and just the most compelling description of traumatic birth and the following haze that I have seen. I couldnt put it down, and I gave my copy to someone and feel a bit bereft and might have to get another one!
Maggie I once saw you in Reception at the building I work in and I was too shy to tell you how much i loved it, so I'm telling you now!

scottishmummy Tue 24-May-11 22:44:04

loved the book,dont want spoil so will discuss my jist
the book really got that vagueness of being new mum,the pull of detachment of old self and sudden attachments to a new baby.clash of old life and new life

i liked how lexie grew and emerged into a confident womann through her art . when lexie dies,-the circumstances and description i was upset but couldn't stop reading.really moving

grew to hate margot for the betrayal and not taking care of items she should have.I wasnt shocked at revelation about Ted, more upset how they had handled it

i like maggie style,not so much whodunnits as whydunnits

as an aside, when i read after you'd gone i was convinced alice dies,but when i discussed this with pal she swears no no i got it wrong.....so maggie?

scottishmummy Wed 25-May-11 18:34:36

im working so will catch this later.

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 18:40:53

test?

bluejeans Wed 25-May-11 19:16:19

Maggie, I read that you have lived in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales and i wondered where feels like home? I love that many of your books (I've read them all!) have a Scottish connection, in an understated sort of way. Too many books are set in London! (I'm Scottish by the way!)

Evening everyone

I'm delighted to introduce our supremely talented May Author of the Month, Maggie O' Farrell. THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE is not only brimming with the strike-a-chord observations on motherhood that have us all nodding and heartaching and remembering, but also fascinating details on life in 1950s bohemia that were entirely new (to me). There's much to discuss, so without further ado....

Maggie, firstly, thank you very much indeed to taking the time to join us. And congratulations on such a satisfyingly gripping and heart-wrenching novel. Perhaps we could kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread? And then we'll aim to get through as many as possible over the next hour.

I'd also like to add two questions:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 20:03:42

TillyBookClub

Evening everyone

I'm delighted to introduce our supremely talented May Author of the Month, Maggie O' Farrell. THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE is not only brimming with the strike-a-chord observations on motherhood that have us all nodding and heartaching and remembering, but also fascinating details on life in 1950s bohemia that were entirely new (to me). There's much to discuss, so without further ado....

Maggie, firstly, thank you very much indeed to taking the time to join us. And congratulations on such a satisfyingly gripping and heart-wrenching novel. Perhaps we could kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread? And then we'll aim to get through as many as possible over the next hour.

I'd also like to add two questions:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

A very good evening to everyone out there. It's been an unbelievably cold day here in Edinburgh so it's nice to be tucked away in my study with the shutters closed. I'm hoping we're not going to be disturbed by my two children, who are refusing to go to sleep. I've never done this before so I hope I'm not going to make an idiot of myself. I'll answer Tilly's first two questions then have a look at the ones further up.

Which childhood book most inspired you?

A hard one because there are so many. The Moomin books and The Secret Garden. Oh, and Where the Wild Things Are.

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

- Read, read, read. Then read some more. Think about what works in a book and what doesn’t – and why. Keep reading, as much as you possibly can, whenever you can.
- Try to ringfence off some time every day (even if it’s only 20 mins) when no one will disturb you. Unplug the phone, switch off the router, and use this as your writing time.
- Don’t be intimidated by beginnings: start in the middle of a story, or at the end; you can always go back and fill in the gaps later.

PogueMahone Wed 25-May-11 20:04:07

I think you're brilliant Maggie. <sycophant>

I loved this book, in fact all of your novels. Great female characters (how fabulous is Lexie?), and an uncanny ability to put into words what motherhood feels like. The beautiful description of a thread unspooling as Lexie walks to work away from her son is just perfect. And this being balanced by this same pull from the child's point of view was heartbreaking in this context.

So... are you a mumsnetter? (Please say you're someone like AF)

gailforce1 Wed 25-May-11 20:04:49

Maggie, following Tilly's questions what inspired you to start writing and how long was it till you got your first book published?

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