Madeline's Reviews > The Hand That First Held Mine

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
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Mar 24, 12

bookshelves: 2012, library-books, novels, coming-of-age, family, historical-fiction, women, sunday-morning
Recommended to Madeline by: Writers & Co.
Read from March 20 to 21, 2012, read count: 1

1. There are definitely numerous similarities between The Hand That First Held Mine and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - I mean, more profound similarities than split narratives, slightly unwieldy titles, and being about women.

2. One of things I like a lot about this book is that the trauma in the contemporary story isn't located exactly where you expect it from the opening. (That said - yes, a lot of the book is obviously going in one direction, and it gets a little wearing, and yes, I know this is called dramatic irony. It gets wearing!)

3. I also like that Lexie's story rewards her perseverance and her disinterest in the conventional. Certainly, there have been plenty of women like her in fiction, but so often they get ground down or made into martyrs. Lexie loses a lot, but she wins a lot too - she never invites pity. And there is even something flinty about Elina, not in a Molly Weasley way, but in a Colette way (except ... definitely better at the parenting part).

4. I have a hard time imagining the audience for Maggie O'Farrell's novels - I once saw them in an airport bookstore, though, so I expect they do pretty well. There's something the tiniest bit "chick lit" about them, though - or that's not quite fair, but they definitely feel like "women's novels," in the same way lots of early novels did, or in the same way studios used to put out "women's pictures." I'm not sneering at them (women's pictures or Maggie O'Farrell!) when I say this, because loads of those movies are awesome. But, yeah - it's difficult to imagine men picking these books up.

5. Also, Ursula LeGuin once pointed out that women artists are underrepresented in fiction, and they are especially underrepresented in a way that validates their artistic ambitions. So if you're interested in a book that does this, check this one out.
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Reading Progress

03/21/2012 page 101
30.0% "Oh, Maggie O'Farrell your books are so blessedly readable!"
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