When I First Held You

- Anstey Harris


Silence tore them apart. Can the truth bring them back together?

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?



For most customers who enter the shop, the thing they most want mending is the past. We can’t do that: we can patch it, polish it, we can turn the past into a healthy memory to be built on – but we can’t mend it. Once we explain that, they seem happier: content to have an emblem of that time restored, or a memento made usable again. Often, all they need is to talk.


* Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. *
almost perfect:
Above all else, the word that When I First Held You most brings to mind is honesty. The stories these characters have to tell resonate with heartbreaking truth that is impossible to deny.

Judith is a little stuck in her ways, grieving her partner and her past trauma. Being forced, mostly against her will, to confront a lot of her history is abrasive and challenging. It happens quickly, with no warning, and she has to try to reconcile her memories and her present life (and possibly her future) with the new information she is given.

James seems on the attack for a lot of When I First Held You. He’s always pushing forward, trying to take the next step, often forgetting that the past needs to be dealt with first. It’s hard to marry Judith’s memory of James with his choices and who he is now. Dougal is obviously the best, though.

Ruby is my favourite character. She’s flawed and complicated, but she shows real growth throughout, despite a late first appearance. Her fearlessness to search for answers and to address difficult topics with Judith, James, and Nick, but most importantly, herself – is wonderful and admirable.

There’s so much to love about how this story is told. Past and present flow together beautifully; despite a lack of labels besides POV titles, I never felt lost as to the time period. The change between perspectives or years felt natural, and information was given as needed and not withheld for more shock value. In addition, the ghosts of characters not present were felt and appreciated, rounding out this cast nicely.

The politics, poverty, and abuse are described from multiple perspectives to provide context without overwhelming what is, at its core, a beautiful and emotional story that I could not recommend more highly.


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[…] “Por encima de todo, la palabra que Cuando te sostuve por primera vez lo que más me trae a la mente es la honestidad. Las historias que estos personajes tienen que contar resuenan con una verdad desgarradora que es imposible de negar”. – Blurbs de libros de Britt […]

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