Cover Image: When I First Held You

When I First Held You

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Member Reviews

This was an emotional read, well written and well put together. 

Thank you NetGalley for my complimentary copy in return for my honest review.
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I personally was not a fan of this novel. With all honesty it was boring and something that I could not stay interested in. I am not sure if it was the type of writing or if it was just the timing of when I actually read it but I wouldn’t recommend at this time. I am going to try and re read it so that way I can make sure this is truly a book I did not like.
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I read over three quarters of this book before I had to give up. I just lost interest. I loved this authors first two books which is why I grabbed this when it appeared in the “read now” section. I would definitely try her next book but this one just wasn’t for me.
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An emotional story about betrayal, forgiveness and family ties.  I really appreciated the present day timeline focusing on characters in their 70s, looking to reconnect and come to terms with events of the past.
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This book has a very big heart. Full of hope and so beautifully observed. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for AH's next book.
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Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
This is a beautiful and touching story. There are so many elements of our recent history that we too often forget happened and take for granted the dramatic change in society over the last fifty or sixty years. The stories of these women and children are so important and should be widely read and respected. The heartbreaking situation all these characters found themselves in will remain with me for a considerable time to come.
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In 1960s Glasgow, anti-nuclear activists Judith and Jimmy fall in love. But their future hopes are dashed when their protestors’ squat gets raided, and many, including Jimmy, are sent to prison. 

Pregnant and with no word from Jimmy, Judith feels she has no option but to enter an unmarried mothers’ home, give up their baby and learn to live with her grief.

More than half a century later, Judith’s Mending Shop restores broken treasures, just as Judith has been bound back together by her late, much-missed partner, Catherine. But her tranquillity is shattered when Jimmy―so different and yet somehow the same―reappears, yearning to unpick the painful past.

Written in dual narratives and timelines, this book tries to put you in the various characters' shoes at various points along their histories. The problem is I just couldn’t bring myself to actually care about any of them! Probably because I’m not long after reading the exceptional Bessborough, which covers the mother and baby homes much more emotively. 

That’s not to say it’s badly written, it isn’t, but the pace was far too slow for my liking. The use of the anti-nuclear protests was an interesting backstory for the characters. 

I also loved the kintsugi references - firstly, most evident on the rather attractive book cover and then as Judith employs the process in her mending shop - both physically in the items she restores and figuratively in how she approaches her past.
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Oh my heart! When I First Held You, by Anstey Harris, pulls on all the heartstrings. It's one of those stories that causes you to literally laugh, cry and feel invested in. It delves into the tragedy that the unwed mothers homes, from mid 20th century, were. The main characters are all likeable but flawed. In other words, they are human. 
It's the 1960s and Judith leaves home to become an anti-nuclear activist. After she gets to Glasgow, she meets a boy and they fall head over heels for each other. Judith is about to tell Jimmy that she's pregnant but there's a police raid and he's sent to prison. 
Judith returns home but her parents send her to an Unwed Mothers home. She does everything she can to get in touch with Jimmy to no avail. After a few weeks, she's forced to hand over her baby for adoption. 
Over 50 years later Jimmy randomly shows up at her charity based shop.  She is shocked and dismayed to see him and wants him to leave immediately. But soon she realizes that their story isn't quite over. They have a few important tasks to complete first.
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I've been spending the last few days trying to figure out how to write this review. Every.review of this book that I've seen raves on it, which made me wonder if I'd read something different. When I First Held You is well written. While it kept my attention, to an extent, I also felt a bit bored with the book. I found that I wasn't looking forward to picking it back up in between times 0f reading. It felt like there was something lacking with the characters, I didn't feel a closeness with them like I do with most books.
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With thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

When I First Held You is a novel about Judith and Jimmy and the directions their lives take after meeting and falling in love during the activist scene in 1970s Glasgow. Judith ends up pregnant and alone, forced to give up her baby after being sent to one of the era’s notorious mother and baby homes. Many years later, Jimmy re-enters Judith’s life and they are forced to confront their past.

The topic of forced adoptions that took place in past decades is very topical right now, and as such I found this book very interesting and engaging. The characters are well drawn and developed, and the plot ticks along at a good pace. An enjoyable read that I would recommend particularly to women aged 40+
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Anstey Harris is such a great Author, this book is full of heartache and love and deception, the kind of books I love to read, if your like me and you like a book that has a lot of sad that gets better in the end, this is the book for you.
It is the 1960s, a time when women being pregnant with no husband was a shame to the family, so the family, or people you work for, could send you away, to hide the shame, back in that day the nuns would take you in, but of course they wanted to have rights to the unborn baby, there is so much deception in this book, lost love, child abuse, no matter the reason, these women found themselves unwed and pregnant. 
I will look for more books by this Author, I received this book from Net Galley I  exchange for my honest review,  I think this is a very good book, I give it 4 stars
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For me, this is a story about second chances and not necessarily in the way you think.

In 1960s Glasgow, anti-nuclear activists Judith and Jimmy fall in love. The government calls them terrorists (and raises the question where is the line between the two?).  In the past we follow Judith’s story from leaving home to meeting Jimmy and the raid that results in Jimmy’s incarceration.  In the meantime, Judith is pregnant and with no word from Jimmy, Judith must enter an unmarried mothers’ home where she is forced to give up her child despite trying to keep it (being a single mother was not an option if you can imagine it).  Judith does what she must and builds a new life for herself.  

Jump to the present day and Judith is doing a television interview for her store when none other than Jimmy walks in, dredging up half a decade’s worth of grief and anger. Where and how do you begin to heal a lifetime’s worth of hurt?  How to reconcile the person you are today with the person who made certain choices in the past?

and then we get to Jimmy’s side of the story… 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, with a cast of characters that add to the drama and chaos of the 60s, and the healing journey of the present. I loved having more mature MCs as our stories don’t end when we turn 30 or 40 or even 50… The twists and turns in this book were sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes beautiful, but no wild surprises (but there are some surprises) and I can’t say more than that without spoilers.  

Harris was born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965. She has been inspired by her family history and hopes to give a voice to the women and children separated from each other by forced adoptions (16,000 a year during the 1960s).

Keep an eye out for this one because it is beautiful. 

Pub Date: 23 January 2023
Thank you NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK, Lake Union Publishing for letting me read this poignant story.
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Judith and Jimmy falll in love in 1960s Glasgow. They are both political activists and during a raid by the police many of the activists are sent prison, including Jimmy. 

Upon discovering she is pregnant, Judith is forced to give up their baby, as she is an unmarried mother. 

Many years later, Jimmy reappears in Judith's life and with a must face what happened and try to bring their family together.

Definitely worth a read
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I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This took me a while to get through since the topic is close to home as I am an adoptee myself and have 5 adopted siblings. It’s beautifully written, with well placed emotional touchstones as the story unfolds and secrets come to light. The portions about mothers and daughters and loss particularly got to me. The dichotomy of small kindnesses from strangers and cruelties from those closest to you were poignant. The characters are likable and I was content with the ending. The only criticism I had is that it felt like something was missing, some connections in small places. The story all worked out, but I’m not sure the combo of plot points and the characters was fully believable. I was a little disappointed the mending shop was forgotten pretty quickly and didn’t feature anywhere prominently later in the story.
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A page turner keeping you engaged to see what happens next..so many twist in the narrative keeps the story moving through the present and back to the 1960s. An incredible story about misjustice in the 1960s, where single mothers could be forced to give up their newborns for adoption and never given the choice to reconnect. 
The characters felt real and created a beautiful narrative, recommend 5 stars.
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Thank you NetGalley for this ARC.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! This is such a poignant and heartbreaking read. It's about love, betrayal and forgiveness. The characters are very likeable! And did I mention it's a dual timeline POV and I love this kind of books. This is beautifully written. I genuinely wish a happy ending for the characters.
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I loved this book. When I First Held You by Ansley Harris is a duel timeline story with Judith as the main character. The story begins in current time as Judith is interviewed for a television show. But the twist quickly happens as James walks in the store. However James and Judith first knew each in 1960’s Glasgow, 50 years earlier. Falling in love while protesting the nuclear arming was a  young couple,  Jimmy and Jude. But the decades  then have created new people, new personalities, and new hardships. 
As the story progresses the reader discovers the secret, a child born and taken from Judith. The discovery of a granddaughter, connects James and Judith again. Caught up in the current discovery of a granddaughter, we relive with Judith the events that led to the separation of not only her and James, but that of their child. This duel timeline is done very well. I laughed, I cried. This book tugs at the emotional heartstrings. 
Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for giving me the opportunity to read When I First Held You. All opinions are my own.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher  and the author for the honor of reading this book.

The book was so beautifully written - I loved everything about it.  I was drawn in to each character, like sitting across from them at an outdoor cafe enjoying a cup of tea.  The cover is just gorgeous - you just know there is something really special inside the book!

Happy and sad tears throughout.  It broke my heart to read about the way unwed mothers were treated - and by their own families.  It is a harsh reality and although it is better now, still there are some families who follow this thinking.  

I am glad the story evolved into new beginnings…. Filled with hope and love, healing and forgiveness.  And lovely Ruby - "A child shall lead them..."  is all I could think of, and she did it with grace..  

I so thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It should be a priority on everyone’s reading list.
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Firstly thank you for my copy to review on netgalley. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Anstey several times and her previous books are beautiful.

Emotive and sensitively written this will capture your heart. Written in dual narratives and timeliness this really puts you in the characters shoes.

I’m adopted so I could relate to this storyline .

Anstey is a beautiful writer who pours her soul Into her books and it shines through .

Life affirming and uplifting whilst dealing with serious subjects .

Another fantastic book and I wish her every success with the release.

Published 24th January 2023.
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As usual in my reviews, I will not rehash the plot...

This is a beautiful, haunting book, and an emotional read on several levels; it made me cry in places, and reawakened my anger at how young unmarried mothers were treated by society and (as in this case) sometimes by their own families at that time (though I appreciate it's easy to try to fit current ways of life and thinking onto the past - but things would have been hugely different back then).

There is a lot of buried pain that people have striven to overcome, lots of secrets and lies, misunderstandings, and sorrow at lost time and missed chances.  Ultimately though there is optimism - a sense of (like Judith's shop) mending things - the rebuilding of lives, the seizing of chances, moving secrets into the light to allow understanding and healing of wounds.  

The main characters of Judith and Jimmy (or James now) are both interesting - they had both lived for over 50 years only knowing their own half of the story, making assumptions about the other. Catherine sounds like a lovely person.  I loved Ruby (and her Dad), and wish the little family the very best for the future (yes, I know they are fictional but hey!)

I love the book's cover (assuming it's the one that will go to print) - a gorgeous image of Kintsugi (the Japanese art of using gold to fix cracks in broken ceramics)- and feel that it sums up the book beautifully.

Anstey Harris's books are not always an easy read, but they are worth it.  I look forward to reading more by this talented author. 

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC. All opinions my own.
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