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Book Reflections – The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

My children are avid readers. We bring bags of books home from the library and op shops for them. They silently dive into other worlds and only reluctantly resurface when they have to. I used to read that way too – instead of doing what I should have been doing. The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd made me want to do the same thing! I pushed through motion sickness to continue reading on the bus, I propped the book open while I brushed my teeth, I read when I should have slept. I have blogger Anna to thank for suggesting I read this riveting book.

Glasfurd transported me to 17th-century Amsterdam (The world of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos and The Miniaturist). This time the focus was not on art but instead on philosophy. The protagonist is a young servant named Helena Jans van der Strom. Helena had a thirst for knowledge and such a desire to master writing that she took discarded quills and made ink from rendered beetroot then wrote on her body. What a terrific start! The book seller took in lodgers to keep himself in tea money (tea was very expensive and he was British). He was very excited when René Descartes came to lodge in his house.

What follows is a captivating love story between Helena, the independently-minded woman who has to work for a pittance to support her mother, and Descartes, a philosopher who changed the world. Helena and Descartes really did have a relationship and a daughter together. Glasfurd has imagined the life that Helena must have lived as an unmarried young mother in an ultra-conservative society. I am very grateful to live in Australia in the 21st century!

I cried several times in this book, and just hoped that the other commuters didn’t notice. I thought it was terrific. I won’t say any more, other than to recommend that you read it!

Cuckoo writers has a good review here and this book review in the Guardian newspaper may be of interest too.

11 comments on “Book Reflections – The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

  1. Anna
    November 1, 2018

    Haha! You read that fast! How good is the book?! I am so glad you liked it! Thanks for the shout out too! X

    • strivetoengage
      November 2, 2018

      Thanks for the suggestion! I must live in a cave because I hadn’t heard of it. Glasfurd impressed me

      • Anna
        November 16, 2018

        I just finished a most awesome book also set in the Dutch golden age – “midnight blue” by Simone van der Vlugt. I just loved it and read it in like 3 days! I think you’ll like it too!

      • strivetoengage
        November 17, 2018

        Thanks for the tip!

      • strivetoengage
        November 19, 2018

        I checked but the ACT library doesn’t have that one. I’ll keep my eye out for it! I like it when you send me book tips!

      • Anna
        November 20, 2018

        Hope you do find it. I bought mine from book depository. Not too badly priced.

      • strivetoengage
        November 20, 2018

        Thanks! I hope that you’ll send more recommendations my way

      • Anna
        November 20, 2018

        I will do! My reading does slow up in summer though, spend more nights outdoors instead of curled up in the couch reading! X

      • Anna
        November 20, 2018

        I have another one. Lol. I was looking at my book collection and remembered one if my all time faves – “blue ribbons, bitter bread, the life of Joice Nankivell Loch” by Susannah de Vries. Such a good book. Have you read it?

      • strivetoengage
        November 21, 2018

        No, I hadn’t heard of it. It’s a brave title! I’ll see if I can find a copy. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • Anna
        November 21, 2018

        It’s one of those books that has made a lasting impression on me. A friend lent it to me years ago and when I finished I bought my own copy so I’d always have it to read again. So many Aussies haven’t heard of Joice Nankivell Loch yet she is an amazing lady and her story is just awesome! Hope you can get it!

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2018 by in fiction and tagged , , , , , , .
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