A young servant girl desperate to learn.
An ambitious philosopher in search of the truth.
A story lost from history.
Set against the backdrop of the Scientific Revolution, a time of change but also of great danger, The Words in My Hand, by Guinevere Glasfurd, is a debut novel of harrowing beauty, in the vein of Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Miniaturist.
This is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th century Amsterdam, who works for Mr. Sergeant the English bookseller. When a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives – the Monsieur – Mr. Sergeant insists everything must be just so. It transpires that the Monsieur is Ren Descartes.
This is Helena’s story: the woman in front of Descartes, a young woman who yearns for knowledge, who wants to write so badly she makes ink from beetroot and writes in secret on her skin – only to be held back by her position in society.
Weaving together the story of Descartes’ quest for Reason with Helena’s struggle for Literacy, their worlds overlap as their feelings deepen, yet remain sharply divided. For all Descartes’ learning, it is Helena he seeks out as she reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him.
When reputation is everything and with so much to lose, some truths must remain hidden. Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.
Praise for The Words in My Hand:
“17th-century Amsterdam sparkles into life in this delightful, playful and beautifully written debut. I loved it!” Rachel Hore, bestselling author of A Week in Paris.
“Guinevere Glasfurd’s writing is fresh and elegant. I loved the subject and the way she brings Amsterdam in the 1600s into vivid, believable life. A lovely book”. Dinah Jefferies, bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife.
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