The Words in My Hand
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Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017.
A gloriously readable and emotional fictional tale based on the relationship between Dutch maid Helena Jans van der Strom and philosopher, mathematician and scientist Rene Descartes, in 17th century Amsterdam. Helena tells her own story, and we have intimate access to her thoughts and feelings as she learns the magic of words, writing and thinking beyond the obvious. It feels as though Guinevere Glasfurd has seen into the heart and soul of Helena, as though this really could be her story. The author also has the gift of shaping the outside world, of painting a vivid picture of life in these times. Sending thoughts skittering down unexpected paths and opening up the world of Descartes, ‘The Words In My Hand’ is a truly lovely and captivating debut. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016.
Costa judges comment: “Glasfurd brings the 17th century Netherlands to vivid life in this sensitive, compelling tale of love and loss.”
Win tickets to the Borders Book Festival!
We have 4 tickets (2 pairs) to give away to one lucky winner to attend two Walter Scott Prize events taking place at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival on Saturday 17 June 2017. One pair of tickets is for a panel event with shortlisted authors, and the other is for the Prize event in which the winner is announced and presented. Click here to find out more about the Borders Book Festival.
Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter. Multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once and the prize cannot be exchanged for cash and does not include transport or accommodation. Draw closes on 2 May 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly from all entrants and will be notified by 14 May 2017.
The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd
The Words in My Hand is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th-century Amsterdam, who works for Mr Sergeant the English bookseller. When a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives - the Monsieur - Mr Sergeant insists everything must be just so. It transpires that the Monsieur is Rene Descartes. But this is Helena's story: the woman in front of Descartes, a young woman who yearns for knowledge, who wants to write so badly she makes ink from beetroot and writes in secret on her skin - only to be held back by her position in society. Weaving together the story of Descartes' quest for reason with Helena's struggle for literacy, their worlds overlap as their feelings deepen; yet remain sharply divided. For all Descartes' learning, it is Helena he seeks out as she reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him. When reputation is everything and with so much to lose, some truths must remain hidden. Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.
'Excellent... The novel is based on enigmatic references to Helena and her illegitimate child in biographies of Descartes - she is the unseen woman behind the great man. Glasfurd has created an entirely unsentimental love story, with a memorable and engaging heroine. She takes the narrowness of Helena's life and her kicks against its confines, and spins them into an original tale.' The Times (Book of the Month)
'An accomplished first novel... A quietly passionate story of a young woman who burns to be allowed to write, to acquire knowledge, and to love her elusive Monsieur. In casting Helena as proto-feminist, artistic, courageous, Glasfurd gives her narrative a rather modern sensibility but it is this quality that makes it such a satisfying read. She brilliantly dissects the complex frustrations of a woman in love with a man consumed by intellectual obsessions. There is much to move us here.' Guardian
'a striking debut... her portrait of love across barriers of class, and of Helena's yearning for education, is a touching one' The Sunday Times
'An absorbing and moving read' Woman's Weekly
'Amsterdam in the 17th Century springs to life in The Words in My Hand...This first novel from Guinevere Glasfurd is wonderfully atmospheric' Good Housekeeping (Ones To Watch)
'Beautifully written' Choice magazine
About the Author
Publication date9th February 2017
More books by Guinevere Glasfurd
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PublisherTwo Roads an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
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