Sunday, 24 January 2016

Launching The Words in my Hand

(c) Stefano Masse
On the 14th January this year Words & Women were invited to the launch of Guinevere Glasfurd’s debut novel The Words In My Hand. Guin has been a long time supporter of Words & Women and has managed our Twitter feed for the past couple of years, so we were delighted to accept the invitation and travelled over to Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge on a freezing, dark night. The weather was so biting that we were concerned that Guin wouldn’t get much of an audience but happily the bookshop was packed, many people keen to meet the author whose book had just been selected as Times Book of the Month.

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 for an English bookseller who rents out a room to the mysterious ‘Monsieur’. On his arrival, ‘Monsieur’ turns out to be RenĂ© Descartes. For all his learning, it is Helena he seeks out as she reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him. Descartes and Helena form an unlikely bond which turns from teaching into an affair.
(c) Saskia Glasfurd-Brown
Weaving together the story of Descartes' quest for reason with Helena's struggle for literacy, The Words in my Hand follows Helena's journey across the Dutch Republic as she tries to keep their young daughter secret. Helena and Descartes’ worlds overlap yet remain sharply divided; the only way of being together is living unseen. However, they soon face a terrible tragedy, and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.
The Words in my Hand tells Helena’s story – a woman who yearned for knowledge, who wanted to write so much that she made her own ink from beetroot and used her body for paper.
Dr Erik-Jan Bos (c) Saskia Glasfurd-Brown
The launch began with a short speech from Lisa Highton, Guin’s publisher at Two Roads Books which is an imprint of John Murray Press. Dr Erik-Jan Bos, who was the academic advisor on the book, then talked movingly about Descartes and his relationship with Helena. Guin followed with a reading from her novel, and the evening ended on thanks for the many people who have given her advice and support during its creation.

Words And Women will review The Words in my Hand on this blog  at a later date, but in the meantime we wish to congratulate Guin and wish her every success with the book.

Guin 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 can be found online at and @guingb. She lives on the edge of the Fens, near Cambridge. Rights to the novel have sold in Germany (Ullstein Buchverlage), France (Livre de Poche), Netherlands (Luitingh-Sijthoff Amsterdam) and Spain (Siruela).

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