Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

I picked this up on a trip to the library during which I had no idea what I wanted.  Sort of like entering a grocery store hungry, without a list.  I just wanted a book, something fiction, not too heavy, but still interesting.

I went straight to the new release section, looked through a few books, checked out about three of them.  This was the one I decided to read first because I thought, based on the book's blurb, that this was a story about independent women succeeding in a difficult world and all that.  I like stories about strong women, especially when those women are involved in art and/or writing, which these women were.

There are two story lines happening - one is a young family, with an infant, trying to figure out parenthood, this is happening in the present, the other story takes place in the past and is about a young woman named Lexie who leaves homes and goes to London to make it on her own.

I'm not big on the whole motherhood thing.  I believe women are capable of doing much more than just being mothers and because I have that belief, it was very difficult for me to like this book because it focuses so much on the idea of motherhood and how there is nothing more important in the world than caring for a baby.

I found the descriptions of the new parents to be rather horrifying, so much detail about spit-up and diaper changing.  Yuck.  And these were parents who sort of accidentally got pregnant, and that annoys me also.  I have no patience for people who think it's okay to haphazardly bring children into the world.

But what bothered me much more was the story of Lexie.  I get the impression that I'm supposed to think of her as vibrant and strong and willful.  But to me, she seemed like nothing more than a woman who gained almost all of her success by sleeping with important men.  I find women like that to be an insult to women who actually get ahead based on their hard work.  Lexie didn't know anything, didn't have any skills when she moved to London, so she hooked up with a married man who ran a magazine.  He hired her and trained her and it's supposed to be a great love story, but I don't think there's anything more pathetic than women who have affairs with married men.  Doesn't matter that his wife was evil and the daughter wasn't really his.  He was simply weak for remaining in the situation and Lexie was an idiot for going along with it.

Then he dies, and Lexie is on her own for a while, until she begins an affair with a successful newsman.  But she wants nothing more to do with him after she gets pregnant.  Again, I get the impression I'm supposed to view her behavior as being independent, but she just seems a bit childish and selfish.  I will never understand why women get involved with men and then have children fathered by men that they think are such jerks.  That makes the women seem as foolish as the men with which they are involved.  But we're led to believe that Lexie is an amazing mother, always dragging her child to work assignments with her - because, you know, that's good for children?

Point being, I didn't like this character, and being that she was the main character and eventually both story lines led directly to her and her greatness, I didn't like the book very much.

I thought the characters behaved unreasonably.  The young father in the current day storyline seemed like a bit of an idiot, when he finally finds out the truth about his past, I don't think he and his father acted fairly toward the woman who raised him.  I don't want to give away what happens, in case you want to read the book.  It's something of a surprise, though most readers probably figured it out before it's all revealed.

I didn't like this book much, I didn't like any of the characters in this book and sort of wished I hadn't bothered to read this book.  

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