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.

beachholiday Wed 25-May-11 20:52:16

Thank you for all your books - have enjoyed all of them. I found the ending of "The Hand That First held Mine" very memorable - I read it when it first came out and the ending very much stayed with me. It was the realisation of what the little boy had had to go through, supressing his memories, and the confused emotions he must have felt as an adult. I really felt such relief that he had Lexie's columns to validate his own past and give him a way forward. It was very thought-provoking.

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 20:52:29

Wheelybug

Trying to join in from my phone whilst waiting for dd2 to go to sleep but in case I don't get the chance to join in properl,just to say I loved the book as I have all your books. After you've gone has stayed with me singce I read it when it first came out. Where did your inspiration come from for AY!G? I hope not personal experience.

And do you have anything in the pipeline?

Hope DD2 has gone off now ...

I think the inspiration for all novels is partly personal experience, partly things you make up and partly things you shamelessly borrow from other people. AYG no exception.
I'm just over halfway through a new book. It's set in the heatwave of 1976 and is about a London-Irish family (sorry to the MNer who thinks there are too many books set in London - it's also set in Ireland and New York). Halfway through is my least favourite place, though. Too far to go back and still a long way to go ...

QuickLookBusy Wed 25-May-11 20:53:51

Oh I'm so annoyed I have missed it all.

Was unexpected delayed by blooming children.

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 20:54:32

TillyBookClub

The Moomin books are wonderful. Are you at all Scandinavian? Did you make Elina Finnish for a particular reason? or did it just add another dimension to the character's displacement/otherness in the book?

And I'm intrigued by Elina's mother - she was actually her 'real' mother (as opposed to Ted's 'unreal' one) but she was less present than Ted's, and, well, completely rubbish to her daughter. Did you deliberately choose to contrast her with the other mothers in the book?

I'm not Scandinavian, more's the pity. I am a total Scandinavia-phile. Love it. Elina is Finnish because, like you say, she needs to be something other than British to emphasis her otherness and also because I went to Finland while working onthe book and loved it so much it had to go in.

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 20:56:53

scottishmummy

i like rummaging in junk shops,there is a poignancy about items that outlive people.a discarded brooch etc wondering who,what loved and held those items. all the shops down grassmarket and candlemaker row

i think your enduring themes is human condition,how we negotiate flaws and decisions made. so i didn't read hand held mine as a whodunnit, a def whydunnit. but if i wanted systematic unpicking and who was it guessing id read another genre

Spent a lot of my teenage Saturdays moping about the the second-hand clothes shops in the Grassmarket. It's still one of my favourite places in the world.

PogueMahone Wed 25-May-11 20:58:34

Hurrah for a new novel!
(Of course you can call me Pogue. Much nicer than my full name.)

We're getting close to closing time...Maggie, would you have time to stay just a tad longer and answer Supernova's questions? And then we'll have to call it a day...

QuickLookBusy Wed 25-May-11 21:00:52

Have just read your reply to ScottishMummy about the ending of After You'd Gone.

Thank you for saying Alice lives. I too have had arguments discussions with friends.

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 21:02:12

champagnesupernova

<rushes in late, clattering and trying not to look flustered>

Hello Maggie, loved the book and I love that you're a MNer. grin

Annoyingly I can't say anything too clever as I had made my notes about THTFHM on my Kindle and then it crashed (are you sensing a theme about disorganisation here?!!)

Do you have a Kindle - what do you think of them?

I am going on holiday - which of your books should I download next when it's unfrozen?

I haven't read any others blush but LOVED this one esp Lexie's article as admired above.

I'm always late and flustered so no need to apologise here.
Kindles: I don't have one but not because I don't like them. If I commuted, for example, I'd def have one. I'm not much of a gadget person. I can see that we'll prob all have them at some point in the future. But for now I'm still wedded to the feel of a book, to paper and ink, when I'm reading (not when I'm writing). It would be hard to give that up.
A book I loved recently was Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. Anyone else read that? And Kathleen Winter's Annabel & Edward St Aubyn's At Last.

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 21:04:43

TillyBookClub

The Moomin books are wonderful. Are you at all Scandinavian? Did you make Elina Finnish for a particular reason? or did it just add another dimension to the character's displacement/otherness in the book?

And I'm intrigued by Elina's mother - she was actually her 'real' mother (as opposed to Ted's 'unreal' one) but she was less present than Ted's, and, well, completely rubbish to her daughter. Did you deliberately choose to contrast her with the other mothers in the book?

Sorry, just realised I forgot to answer second question here. I can't remember if making Elina's mother a bit rubbish was deliberate or not. It just seemed that she was that way - there had to be a reason why Elina had run away and stayed away.

I can't wait to read the St Aubuyn. Mother's Milk had the most brilliant opening chapter, it made me see all my births from the babies POV, and I want to photocopy it and send it to all expectant mothers.

Maggie, you have been brilliant - thank you very very much indeed for all your thoughtful and illuminating answers. And hope you'll be on bookclub again, either as MN'er (can I tempt you by saying we might have Jonathan Franzen on here fairly soon?) or with the new book.

Good luck with the next one, we can't wait to read it. And hope your two are safely fast asleep by now...

And thanks to everyone for their questions. Really enjoyed this evening.

QuickLookBusy Wed 25-May-11 21:10:23

Thank you so much Maggie.

Cannot wait for your next book.

scottishmummy Wed 25-May-11 21:10:56

great duscussion.one of the best id say

cheers

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 21:11:59

TillyBookClub

I can't wait to read the St Aubuyn. Mother's Milk had the most brilliant opening chapter, it made me see all my births from the babies POV, and I want to photocopy it and send it to all expectant mothers.

Maggie, you have been brilliant - thank you very very much indeed for all your thoughtful and illuminating answers. And hope you'll be on bookclub again, either as MN'er (can I tempt you by saying we might have Jonathan Franzen on here fairly soon?) or with the new book.

Good luck with the next one, we can't wait to read it. And hope your two are safely fast asleep by now...

And thanks to everyone for their questions. Really enjoyed this evening.

Mother's Milk one of my favourite books - I can read it over and over again and still marvel at how brilliant it is. At Last just as brilliant, but in a very different way.

It's been such a pleasure to come on here tonight. Thank you all very much for having me. My two are asleep, I think. Either that or concocting some terrible, silent project together in their bedroom ...

gailforce1 Wed 25-May-11 21:12:00

Tilly thanks for organising another great book club. Shame the hour goes so quickly.....

MaggieOFarrell Wed 25-May-11 21:12:18

QuickLookBusy

Thank you so much Maggie.

Cannot wait for your next book.

Ha - me too.

I agree, gailforce, an hour seems never enough. Maybe we can extend. Will see what other MN editors think.

Thanks again everyone. And don't hesitate to tell me which other authors you'd like to see up here...

scottishmummy Wed 25-May-11 21:43:46

Jackie Kay please-outstanding author

bluejeans Wed 25-May-11 22:26:49

Maggie - thank you for answering my question! And I don't mind a bit if the new book is set in London - the 1976 angle sounds good too <old enough to remember it> Can't wait!

QuickLookBusy Thu 26-May-11 07:53:16

Tilly, Kate Atkinson would be a great author to have for a chat.

elkiedee Thu 26-May-11 09:10:29

Thanks to all involved for that, I was actually lurking for most of it as kids in bath with their dad doing the work and looking after them. Isn't Kate Atkinson coming next month?

QuickLookBusy Thu 26-May-11 14:44:20

Oh is she?

Fantastic!!

elkiedee Tue 31-May-11 12:02:24

I finished reading this over the weekend, a little late, I loved reading it and didn't mind the spoilers, the discussion here enhanced my reading of it. Thansk all.

Blatherskite Fri 10-Jun-11 09:51:36

I have finally finsihed reading this book and I really liked it.

I didn't enjoy so much the early days with Elina after the baby was born but I think that's because they were so well written that I felt a little wooly headed and lost too.

Loved the ending though, so poignant and sad. A lovely glimmer of a hope of a happy ending when Elina finds Lexi's articles for Ted though.

Thank you for the opportunity to read it.

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