Synopses & Reviews
Lexie Sinclair is plotting an extraordinary life for herself.
Hedged in by her parents' genteel country life, she plans her escape to London. There, she takes up with Innes Kent, a magazine editor who wears duck-egg blue ties and introduces her to the thrilling, underground world of bohemian, post-war Soho. She learns to be a reporter, to know art and artists, to embrace her life fully and with a deep love at the center of it. She creates many lives--all of them unconventional. And when she finds herself pregnant, she doesn't hesitate to have the baby on her own terms.
Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood. She doesn't recognize herself: she finds herself walking outside with no shoes; she goes to the restaurant for lunch at nine in the morning; she can't recall the small matter of giving birth. But for her boyfriend, Ted, fatherhood is calling up lost memories, with images he cannot place.
As Ted's memories become more disconcerting and more frequent, it seems that something might connect these two stories-- these two women-- something that becomes all the more heartbreaking and beautiful as they all hurtle toward its revelation.
The Hand That First Held Mine is a spellbinding novel of two women connected across fifty years by art, love, betrayals, secrets, and motherhood. Like her acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, it is a "breathtaking, heart-breaking creation."*And it is a gorgeous inquiry into the ways we make and unmake our lives, who we know ourselves to be, and how even our most accidental legacies connect us.
*The Washington Post Book World
"Maria Jameson, happy in her life as a professor, wife, and mother, finds her life upended when she begins an affair with a man she meets in a shabby Edinburgh, Scotland, bookshop. To help her make sense of her situation, Maria also embarks on a project researching the life and art of French novelist George Sand, who made a name for herself by walking around in trousers and taking beaucoup lovers. As the dry narrative advances, Brackenbury cuts back and forth between Maria's story and Sand's fateful trip to Majorca with Chopin, allowing Maria to discovers deep kinship with the writer, based on the conflicting desires of the female heart. Indeed, Maria's affair makes her life complete; she is happy with her lover and with her family, but the arrangement can't possibly last. While Brackenbury finds some nice parallels and a telling subplot regarding an ailing friend of Maria's, Maria's story of disconnection and reconnection with her family moves slowly, and the interludes in Sand's era often come off as stiff. Maria is deeply interested in her conundrum; readers will be much less so. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"OFarrell brings to mind Sue Miller but with a British and darker flavor; her sure hand for psychological suspense . . . continues to be most impressive." Library Journal
"Maggie OFarrells cinematically vivid novel is moody and powerful and plotted at a breakneck pace. This book, like life, will disarm you with its unannounced twists and tragedies and moments of unexpected beauty. She delivers to readers that rarest of experiencestotal emotional investment. Hers is a brilliant feat of prose marksmanshipalso, it made me cry on the subway." Heidi Julavits, author of The Effect of Living Backwards and The Uses of Enchantment
"Maggie OFarrell knows how to weave a bewitching tale, both thrilling and poetic. The Hand That First Held Mine will no doubt enrapture you, just as it has me." Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarahs Key
"An exquisitely sensual tale of love, motherhood, and other forms of madness, The Hand That First Held Mine will unsettle, move, and haunt you." Emma Donoghue, author of Slammerkin
"Maggie OFarrell deftly depicts the long-after shocks of death, betrayal, and life-changing love as her richly complicated characters play out an immensely satisfying plot. The Hand That First Held Mine is a dazzling and absorbing novel." Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
"Maggie OFarrell is an uncommonly perceptive writer, and The Hand That First Held Mine is an unforgettable story of family, ambition, and love. I couldnt stop thinking about it long after I read the final page." Lauren Grodstein, author of A Friend of the Family
"Read Becoming George Sand
for the beauty of the prose, for the intertwined and compelling stories of two brave and piercingly alive women. Read it most of all, though, for its honesty, the way it reveals and illuminates certain truths and longings that are often believed to be secreted inside only one individual, but are in fact universal. This is not so much a story about having a love affair as it is a study of the nature of love itself. I was absolutely knocked out by it."
—Elizabeth Berg, author of the forthcoming Once Upon a Time, There Was You, as well as Open House, What We Keep, The Year of Pleasures, Talk Before Sleep, and many others
"I enjoyed Becoming George Sand very much. It is thoughtful, lyrical and adventurous, and I liked the contrasts between glowing Majorca and cold Edinburgh, between past and present, all beautifully orchestrated. George Sand comes across to us as a real woman as well as an important writer, and an inspiring example of generosity and energy."
"This is a beautiful, wise novel. The intertwining of past and present, of France and Scotland, of genius and analysis is done with an ease that disguises the consummate skill of the writing. A lovely book."
—Edmund White, author of The Flaneur and City Boy
"An elegant novel which offers sensitive and witty reflections upon an astonishingly wide range of topics, Becoming George Sand is a great read and its characters—the struggling writer Maria Jameson and the indefatigable George Sand—are enchanting company."
—Valerie Martin, author of Property
"A wonderful book—filled with wisdom, poetry, and imagery so brilliant I wish I could steal it. Maria is a character to love, whose loves are vivid, embracing, and revelatory. This is a treasure!"
"Written with brilliant assurance and a rich, stirring voice, Becoming George Sand is a masterful tale that travels the world in pursuit of its extraordinary characters and takes readers on a journey filled with wisdom and an unforgettable sense of joy and inspiration."
—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and The Language of Baklava
"Brackenburys fine new novel makes the worlds of present-day Edinburgh and nineteenth-century France both wonderfully real and full of moving emotional drama."
—Alison Lurie, author of Foreign Affairs "Here is a delicious and devastating account of the lives and loves of two women, one contemporary and Scottish, the other the legendary George Sand; both writers. The parallel lives are tellingly written, and this matters: the story also reveals the persuasive, elusive shadows that writing and reading insinuate into the texture of a life."
—Harry Mathews, author of My Life in CIA and former editor at the Paris Review
Maria Jameson is having an affair—a passionate, lifechanging affair. She asks: Is it possible to love two men at once? Must this new romance mean an end to love with her husband?For answers, she reaches across the centuries to George Sand, the maverick French novelist who took many lovers. Immersing herself in the life of this revolutionary woman, Maria struggles with the choices women make and wonders if women in the nineteenth century might have been more free, in some ways, than their twenty-first-century counterparts.
Here, Rosalind Brackenbury creates a beautiful portrait of the ways in which women are connected across history. Two narratives delicately intertwine—following George through her affair with Frederic Chopin, following Maria through her affair with an Irish professor—and bring us a novel that explores the personal and the historical, the demands of self and the mysteries of the heart. Sharply insightful, Becoming George Sand asks how we make our lives feel vibrant while still acknowledging the gifts of our pasts, and challenges our understanding of love in all its forms—sparkling and new, mature, rekindled, and renewed.
A novel that follows a professor, caught in a passionate affair, who comes to a moment of crisis in her life and looks to the letters and diaries of George Sand for guidance, seeing that the nineteenth century offered women more freedom in some ways than they have now.
Maria Jameson is having an affair — a passionate, lifechanging entanglement with a younger man. Does this new romance mean an end to the life she has built for herself ? Does it mean an end to being in love with her husband?
For answers, she reaches across the centuries to the life and love stories of George Sand, the maverick French novelist who took many lovers, including Frederic Chopin. Immersing herself in the life of this revolutionary woman, Maria struggles with the choices women make and the limitations placed on their lives, then and now. Might women in the nineteenth century have been more free, in some ways, than their twentyfirst-century counterparts?
A beautiful portrait of the ways in which women are connected across history, Becoming George Sand asks how we can make our lives feel vibrant while still acknowledging the gifts of our pasts, and challenges our understanding of love in all its forms.
What is the price of falling in love?
“Read Becoming George Sand for the beauty of the prose, for the intertwined and compelling stories of two brave and piercingly alive women. Read it most of all, though, for its honesty. This is not so much a story about having a love affair as it is a study of the nature of love itself. I was absolutely knocked out by it.”—Elizabeth Berg
“This is a beautiful, wise novel. The intertwining of past and present, of France and Scotland, of genius and analysis is done with an ease that disguises the consummate skill of the writing. A lovely book.”—Edmund White
“An elegant novel which offers sensitive and witty reflections upon an astonishingly wide range of topics, Becoming George Sand is a great read and its characters are enchanting company.”—Valerie Martin
“A wonderful book—filled with wisdom, poetry, and imagery so brilliant I wish I could steal it. This is a treasure!”—Annie Dillard
A novel of two women—a writer and a painter—who are connected across fifty years by love stories, family secrets, and motherhood.
About the Author
MAGGIE O'FARRELL is the author of four previous novels, including the acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which was a B&N Recommends Pick, and After Youd Gone. Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, O'Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland. She has two children.
Table of Contents
1. Secret 1
2. The Bitter Paths of Majorca 51
3. Real Life 127
4. Corambé 175
5. The House on the Creuse 195
6. Consolation 227
7. The Owl 287