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19th April
written by Steph

We're halfway through April (ack!), but it's never too late to share a review!  For the BookPage website, I reviewed The Hand That First Held Mine, and you can read my thoughts here. I admit I was drawn to the book because of its gorgeous cover (even the ARC was visually striking), but I wound up with more than just a pretty book in the bargain. I knew from the first few pages that O'Farrell's writing was elegiac but crisp, a combination I found intoxicating.  I soon found I had a mesmerizing psychological drama, familial thriller and love story all rolled into one on my hands.  And I loved it.  It swept me away, and I was moved by both the prose and the plot. I gulped this novel down and was sad for it to end.  It was my first novel by O'Farrell, but I know it won't be my last.  I've already been scouring the shelves for her 2006 novel, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, because I need to read more of what this woman has written! Loved the complexity and subtlety of this one, and would highly recommend it. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 [P.S. Yes, "ARC" means I got the book for free... but my time is not, and it was a good investment!)


  1. 04/19/2010

    Finally a book that has a beautiful cover AND a great insides!

  2. 04/19/2010

    The cover is beautiful, and I love the phrase “elegiac but crisp.” Very nice!

  3. I have been wanting to read a Maggie Farrell for ages, but so far I haven’t read one. I really wanted to start with Esme Lennox, but then I was lucky enough to get a copy of this one and now I don’t know where to start. Have you read Esme? Which one do you recommend I read first?

  4. 04/20/2010

    @ Kathleen: Yes, I love when the outsides of books match the insides! The saddest thing for me is when I love a book but it’s got an ugly cover!
    @ rhapsody: I thought O’Farrell’s writing really was remarkably strong. Very dreamlike, but not muddled at all. A hard thing to pull off, but I think she did!
    @ Jackie: This is my first O’Farrell so I can’t compare it to the rest of her oeuvre, unfortunately. But I really think you should give this one a read since you do already have it and it is really good. I think you’ll like it a lot!

  5. OK – I’ll give this one a try! 🙂

  6. 04/20/2010

    I have been reading rave reviews of this book all over the place. I am so glad that it didn’t let you down. I loved your review over at BookPage and think that this book does sound like something I would go for. I like that the story lines seem separate and distinct and then meld with great force at the end. I don’t think I have read many books that utilize that strategy. Most of them tie the separate narrative threads together very early on. Great review, I am definitely going to be trying this one.

  7. 04/20/2010

    Every time I see this cover I think of Drew Barrymore…doesn’t anyone else think the woman on the cover looks even just a little like her??

  8. 04/20/2010

    I thought this was chick lit because of the cover (even though I LOVE that cover, it has that impression on me). But seeing you loved it, I will read it now for sure. 😀

  9. 04/21/2010

    @ Jackie: Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
    @ softdrink: I can see what you’re saying, but I can’t say that I personally was reminded of Drew!
    @ claire: I was misled by the cover, too, so I don’t blame you! I thought it was pretty, but I wasn’t expecting this book to ultimately be so fantastic and literary!

  10. 04/21/2010

    Esme Lennox is a book that has been taunting me for ages – it always pops up on bookmooch when I’m not home and it’s gone when I click over to get it! I’m now wondering if I hadn’t better get this one first, though, as it sounds absolutely amazing.

  11. 04/22/2010

    @ Nymeth: I haven’t had any luck finding Esme Lennox either. I hadn’t heard anything about it, honestly, until I read this one and started to look at O’Farrell’s back catalogue, but now I really want to read it! This one’s great too, though, so I don’t feel like I lost out reading it first. I’m sure you’ll love it!

  12. 04/23/2010

    Oh, I’m so jealous you’ve been able to read this already! It doesn’t come out here until the beginning of May, and I don’t think I’ll have time to read it before I go on my trip! Maybe I can pick it up in London.

    I adore Maggie O’Farrell – her books are so great – they’re compulsively readable, you get drawn into the characters, they’re always a little gothic, and they’re beautifully written without being too ‘showy’. My favourite is The Distance Between Us.

  13. 04/25/2010

    @ megan: I hope you do get a chance to read it – I think it would be lovely if you can get it in London, since O’Farrell herself considers SoHo to be a tertiary character in the book! I’m saddened that I’ve not read anything else by her, but I intend to rectify that soon! Thanks for the recommendation!

  14. 04/30/2010

    I have never heard of this author; but, as usual, 4.5/5 rating from you implicates that it would be my kind of book! 🙂

  15. […] Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell – Another previous read, this was actually the first O’Farrell I read and I loved it. I only had an ARC and gave it […]

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