• The Hand That First Held Mine

  • By: Maggie O'Farrell
  • Narrated by: Karen Cass
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An unforgettable novel of love and motherhood from best-selling author Maggie O'Farrell.

Winner of the 2010 Costa Novel Award and a Sunday Times best seller, The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell is a gorgeously written story of love and motherhood from the author of This Must Be the Place.

When the sophisticated Innes Kent turns up on her doorstep, Lexie Sinclair realises she cannot wait any longer for her life to begin and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, she carves out a new life. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with her sense of herself as an artist and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood that don't tally with his parents' version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by 50 years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected.

©2010 Maggie O'Farrell (P)2012 Headline Digital

Critic Reviews

"O'Farrell has a remarkable ability to convey the texture of human emotion with precision. In The Hand That First Held Mine, she also demonstrates a masterful gift for storytelling." ( Observer)
"Like Daphne du Maurier before her, Maggie O'Farrell writes books designed to stir up the female subconscious and bring our most primal fears to the surface... this book will leave your stomach in knots." ( Daily Mail)
"The journey this novel invites us on is wonderful, involving time travel, heartache, elation, confusion, freedom, nostalgia and art." ( Scotland on Sunday)

What listeners say about The Hand That First Held Mine

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  • happy loon
  • 07-07-15

amazing

such a great story so well read. first Maggie o Farrell for me but wont be the last.
beautiful x

7 people found this helpful

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  • Gillian
  • 03-18-15

Best one yet

I'm really enjoying reading my way through the works of Maggie O'Farrell - and I'd say this was the best yet. Beautifully interwoven stories, fascinating, frustrating, likeable, annoying characters and the detective game of working out how they are connected. Her descriptions are delicate, rhythmic and evocative - of the time I was born and the time I live in today.
Hugo recommended.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 06-29-16

Separate stories take too long to come together

It took many hours of listening, to largely descriptive writing, to arouse my interest in the lives of two couples whose separate stories alternate and switch back and forth in time. Having to keep readjusting to which couple’s life was being described and at which time in their lives added to my lack of engagement. The narratives focus too long on the relationships within each couple unanchored by time and place. Many chapters went by before I realised that Lexie and Innis met in the 1950s and Ted and Elina in the present century. After hours of mundane listening things did pick up, but not until the last 30 minutes or so of the recording do the two quite separate stories come together. There are two moderately interesting books in this one novel but the sum is less than the parts. The writing is good, but the disjointed nature of the book is a distraction.

The reader is good and did inject life into the characters

5 people found this helpful

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  • Alex Marsh
  • 07-02-20

Solid without being exceptional

A perfectly fine novel but not one that grabbed me. one issue was that I was much more interested in one narrative than another (I liked the 2000s narrative to the 1960s/70s one). I found the older narrative much less gripping and the character less rounded.

3 people found this helpful

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  • LyndyLou
  • 02-11-20

Too long.

The first two thirds of this book proved a very mundane listening experience. It wasn’t till the last chapters that everything came together and the characters actually sparked my interest. Up to that time, I found the writing and the story quite tedious. I was glad when I finished and wouldn’t recommend it.

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  • MJG13
  • 09-04-22

Terribly boring

I’ve always liked Maggie O’Farrell’s books that this one was so tedious I couldn’t actually bear to listen to it.
The endless interior thoughts and the fact that nothing much happened was, I thought, not worth bothering with.
Maybe I gave up on it too early but I’m not sure anything much would change.

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  • Ruth C.
  • 08-23-22

excellent narrator. intriguing story line

For most of the story I was intrigued by the connection between the 2 families separated by time. the narrator was very easy to listen to.

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  • TG
  • 08-06-22

Absorbing and affecting

Another absorbing and ultimately emotional listen from O'Farrell, Karen Cass' narration is brilliant with various characters voiced subtly adding to our idea of them. it was a slow start for me until the 1950's story kicked in but finally was listening long into the night to reach the final words with regret.i wanted to call them to suggest other avenues! Feel bereft as always.

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  • SharonRAmreview
  • 06-11-22

Slow burner but worth your time

I didn’t love this novel immediately and particularly found the narrator a little jarring but i warmed to the characters, their stories started to weave together & it became far more engaging…really quite lovely all in all!

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  • Aero
  • 06-04-22

Seems disjointed initially

I found the switching between the 2 stories cumbersome and made it difficult to get into the book. There was always the assumption it would come together in the end, and it does, but quite late on.
The characters were well drawn, but the structure got in the way at times for me.

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  • Anna
  • 08-07-22

Marvellous!

I absolutely loved this book! I have been entranced to the very last word.
I didn't guess the connection with the two families.
Maggie O'Farrell writes so beautifully.
The narrator is really good.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-02-22

Fantastic

True to style and very beautifully crafted and performed. Maggie's books are like bathing in a deep pool of constant delights.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-20-18

Slow to develop

I didn't like the present tense style - he said she said she picks up .... etc. A bit tedious. Very slow to develop.

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  • Julie
  • 02-12-18

I was so sad when it ended!

I could have listened to tales from the lives of the two protagonists until the cows came home. I particularly enjoyed Lexi and I would have equally liked Elina if not for the dodgy attempt at her accent on the audible recording. I felt like the book could have happily meandered along ad finitum for me!

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  • Katherine
  • 04-13-17

Gripping and moving

Would you listen to The Hand That First Held Mine again? Why?

Yes, it's so intriguing and complicated I think I missed a few clues first time around.

What did you like best about this story?

Great characters, a mystery, interweaving of past and present, beautifully written

Which character – as performed by Karen Cass – was your favourite?

Lexie

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes, but I'm not giving it away here!

Any additional comments?

I just love this author and the narrator is brilliant at creating the characters.