I’m sure I’m not alone in having those wtf moments when I’m humming a particular song just before it comes on the radio or tv, or thinking about someone just before they phone “out of the blue”.

My latest one was that last Monday I was in Florence being shown around the city by an enthusiastic Florentinian who rattled round the city streets drawing our attention to the artistic, cultural and historical highs and lows of the city. When we got to the Uffizi she spoke about the flooding which the city had experienced in the 60s and what a problem this had been for the works of art inside and how there had been constant restoration going on ever since. A week later I started a book which a friend had given me ages ago – Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine –  and came across this paragraph:

It was November 1966. An entire season’s rain had fallen in two days, the river Arno had burst its banks and now the city of Florence was drowning, awash, submerged, the river had spread itself everywhere. In the apartments, in the shops, in the Duomo, up staircases, into the Uffizi. It had claimed furniture, people, statues, plants, animals, plates, cups, paintings, books, maps. It had swept away all the jewels and necklaces and rings from the shops on the Ponte Vecchio: it had folded those things into its brown waters and taken them away, down the silty mud of its bed.

If I had read this book at any other point the paragraph would have been lost but because I read it exactly a week after visiting the city, I found it quite powerful.

Anyway, overall this book is a worthwhile read as all of M O’F’s books have been so far.  The plot itself revolves around two women decades apart whose stories are told mostly chapter about. One woman is a journalist in the 60s and the other is a Finnish woman who has just given birth to a baby after a traumatic 3 day labour. The connection between the characters is gradually revealed over the novel. M O’F writes very well about the exhaustion of giving birth, the vagaries of love and commitment and the pain of loss.

It is mostly about what people feel rather than a rip-roaring, plot-driven action adventure but there are sufficient plot twists to keep the general reader interested.

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