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 René 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. 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.
‘Excellent’ The Times (Book of the Month) ‘A striking debut’ The Sunday Times ‘Wonderfully atmospheric’ Good Housekeeping ‘An absorbing and moving read’ Woman's Weekly.
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 manages the Words and Women Twitter feed, a voluntary organisation representing women writers in the East of England and can be found online at guinevereglasfurd.com 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).