Words in My Hand
THE WORDS IN MY HAND is the reimagined true story of Helena, a 17th century Dutch maid, desperate to educate herself and use her mind, in an era where women were kept firmly in their place. Helena works in the Amsterdam lodging house of an English bookseller who rents out a room to the mysterious 'Monsieur' who turns out to be Rene Descartes. Always trying to keep one step ahead of the authorities desperate to suppress his free thinking, Descartes and Helena form an unlikely bond which turns from teaching into an affair. For all his learning, it's Helena who provides him with insights and emotional perspective from the everyday life all around him. For this is Helena's story, a woman who yearned for knowledge, who wanted to write so badly - and who could afford nothing - she made her own ink from beetroot and used her body for paper. Weaving together the story of Descartes' quest for reason with Helena's struggle for literacy, the novel follows Helena's journey across the Dutch Republic as she tries to keep their young daughter secret. Through Helena's story, everyday objects are transformed into new ways of learning. Their worlds overlap yet remain sharply divided; the only way of being together, is living unseen. Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy, and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.
17th-century Amsterdam sparkles into life in this delightful, playful and beautifully written debut. I loved it! Rachel Hore, bestselling author of A WEEK IN PARIS Guinevere Glasfurd's writing is fresh and elegant. I loved the subject and the way she brings Amsterdam in the 1600s into vivid, believable life. A lovely book. Dinah Jefferies, bestselling author of THE TEA PLANTER'S WIFE A quietly powerful novel of love, ambition and betrayal. Glasfurd's depiction of the eternal tension between domestic realities and intellectual ambition is precisely nuanced, and suffused with all the cool charm of its Dutch Golden Age setting. Kate Worsley, author of SHE RISES The Words in My Hand, Guinevere Glasfurd's captivating debut novel of a Dutch maid's affair with Descartes, is compelling, lush, impressive Kate Mayfield, author of THE UNDERTAKER'S DAUGHTER The Words In My Hand tells a moving story with quiet confidence and masterful restraint. Glasfurd's evocation of 17th century Holland through the voice of young Helena - servant girl and mistress of Descartes - is vivid, plausible, and hugely engrossing. An astonishingly accomplished and mature first novel. Shelley Weiner
Guinevere Glasfurd's short fiction has appeared in Mslexia, the Scotsman and in a collection from The National Galleries of Scotland. The Words In My Hand, her first novel, was written with the support of a grant from Arts Council England. She also works collaboratively with artists in the UK and South Africa and her work has been funded under the Artists' International Development Fund, (Arts Council England and the British Council). She manages the Words and Women Twitter feed, a voluntary organisation representing women writers in the East of England and can be found online at guinevereglasfurd.com and @guingb. She lives on the edge of the Fens, near Cambridge.