Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The hand that first held mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Strangely enough, this is the second book in a short time, that I read, loved the story but not the way it is written.  But, misunderstand me right; the writing itself if wonderful, it is just the parts that takes you out of the story (see below). The story is told from two different time frames and in the end the two stories merge. I must say in quite a surprising and extraordinary way. You are in for some surprises at the end.

The story starts in the 1950s with Lexie Sinclair who is longing for another life. By chance she runs into a charming artist and journalist, Innes Kent, in her remote village. That is the chance meeting she needs to take the big step to go to work in London. Inevitably she runs into Innes Kent and from there her life is never the same.

In present time we meet Ted and Elina, as they have got their first child. The birth was very dramatic, both for Elina and for Ted and it takes time for both of them to settle in as parents and their new life. From the beginning it is just Elina having problems coming to terms with the horrors of the birth, but the child brings out forgotten memories in Ted and he starts questioning his own childhood. The trauma of Elina’s childbirth is very well described, but the descriptions linger on a little bit too long.  Just as she recovers, Ted starts acting strangely.

Just like with The Hidden Room, this is a fascinating, very well written story. But, as with the other novel, the author decides to step out of her characters and adress the reader. I know, Charlotte Brontë did the same in the end of Jane Eyre: ’Reader, I married him’. All right, I can accept that although it somehow also takes you out of the story.  I find it especially irritating when you are in another time.

The older story is written in past tense, and the present story in precent tense. Here an example, where, after a section of Elina and Ted, we go back to Lexie:
”Here is Lexie, standing on a pavement at Marble Arch. She is adjusting the back of her shoe, smoothing her hair. It is a warm, hazy evening, just after six o’clock. Men in suits and women in heels and hats, pulling children by the hand, flow around her as if they were a river and she were a rock in their path. ”
Do you know what I mean? Here the story goes from telling Lexies story, to putting the reader somehow into the story. I don’t really like this. I want to be the unseen, reader, getting the story without them knowing it, so this approach does not really work for me. However, these parts only happens here and there. Overall, the story is told as I think it should.

Having said that, it is a wonderful, interesting story and it keeps you curious until the very end. I loved the characters of Lexie and Innes, and although I was, from time to time, slightly irritated with Elina and Ted, they won out in the end. A wonderful tale, and it makes me curious about Maggie O’Farrels’ other books.

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