When I First Held You By Anstey Harris

Songs In Ursa Major‘When I First Held You’ is the latest book by Anstey Harris.

In 1960s Glasgow, anti-nuclear activists Judith and Jimmy fall in love. But their future hopes are dashed when their protestors’ squat is raided and many, including Jimmy, are sent to prison. Pregnant and with no word from Jimmy, Judith is forced 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 herself 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. Realising they each know only half of the other’s story, Jimmy and Judith finally break the silence that tore apart what might have been their family. Amid heartbreak and hope, how much can now be mended?

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Anstey, but I’ve always had a soft spot for her debut novel called ‘The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton’

In her latest book we meet Judith who met James during the 1960s, they were young protesters who fell in love and when James is arrested, Judith is left behind pregnant. She returns home hoping for her parents support but instead is sent to a mother and baby home, where her baby is adopted. Judith has never given up on finding her daughter and when James comes into her life, they face old ghosts as well as connect with Ruby, their granddaughter.

The story is seen through the narrative of Judith and Ruby as they meet and begin a new relationship. Both are tentative whilst James just jumps straight in. He’s unaware of the hardship that Judith went through after his arrest and it’s quite hard reading in parts, as Judith tries to keep her baby only for it to taken away.

The story is also written in past and present tense and really highlights the trauma a single woman has to go through when pregnant. The pressure and judgement from society and the church that forces women into these homes and tears families apart makes for really sad and upsetting in parts.

A tender and beautifully written story about the horrific times women had to go through, ‘When I First Held You’ is an emotional story about, love, loss and reconciliation that will tug at your heartstrings.

You can buy ‘When I First Held You’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

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