Saturday 21 January 2023

When I First Held You by Anstey Harris

 Some stories are just so beautifully written that you can't help but love them.

Anstey Harris's latest novel, When I First Held You was one of those books. I was drawn in so quickly and I didn't want to let go of this tale in a hurry.


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?

This for me was a sort of love story. 

But not one of two people falling for one another.

No, this was all about the immense adoration for a child.

Judith and Jimmy fell deeply in love, it was fast but it was true. However fate had different plans for this youthful pair. 

Judith was left alone, pregnant, essentially helpless.

Left with no other choice, she was forced to part with her child and give her up for adoption. 

Many years later, she is contacted by her granddaughter, Ruby. 

And it is then that we are taken on a real journey of discovery. With dual timelines, showing events once forgotten and present day. 


Not a story that is all hearts and flowers. There is pain, there is loss and there is unbelievable heartache. But what we are also given is laughter, treasured memories and a real hope for the future. And it was all of this sentiment that really bought the characters to life across the pages.

A wonderful blending of past and present that honestly depicts all of the complications of families and highlights the struggles of adoption that were faced all those years ago.

Anstey writes in such a way that it is all quite raw, realistic.

I dare you to read this novel and not be moved.

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