Let your eyes drop to my score for Maggie O’Farrell’s Costa Book Award-winning-novel, The Hand That First Held Mine, and freak out. Because nearly everyone I know loved it. And when I finished both of her completely immersive historical novels earlier this year (here and here), I expected I would also love it. But I didn’t and I’ll (very briefly) tell you why.
I’m a bit over the switching back-and-forth-between-present-and-past-to-tell-two-stories-in-parallel structure. You absolutely know from the outset that the two stories will intersect and I find myself joining the dots as I read. It’s an approach used by lots of authors (Kate Morton springs to mind, and it’s because of this that I’ve stopped reading her books). The problem with this approach is that it disrupts tension – if the author has created tension and then switches time period, it’s lost. Equally annoying, is the reliance on switching to create continual cliff-hangers.
There were elements I enjoyed well enough – Lexie’s story, set in London in the 1950s, with a focus on journalism and publishing appealed more than Elina’s, whose story is set in the present. Much of what was described for Elina seemed superfluous, however, the two characters overlap in their experience as new mothers. Ultimately, O’Farrell’s observations about motherhood were not enough to sustain my interest. I will read more by her in the future but I am likely to be more choosy.
Lexie took a sip of her gin and felt its heated path sink down through her body.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (July 16): Belfast 13°-17° and Melbourne 5°-15°.