A young servant girl desperate to learn.

An ambitious philosopher in search of the truth. 

A story lost from history.

Guinevere Glasfurd THE WORDS IN MY HAND ANZ cover Two Roads Books

‘Excellent… an entirely unsentimental love story, with a memorable and engaging heroine

The Times, Book of the Month

‘Wonderfully atmospheric’

Good Housekeeping, Ones to Watch

‘Gloriously readable’

LoveReading, Debut of the Month

‘An absorbing and moving read’

Women’s Weekly

Bird - Words In My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd - Two Roads BooksThe Words in My Hand  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 René 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.

’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

‘A quietly powerful novel of love, ambition and betrayal. Glasfurd’s depiction of the eternal tension between domestic realities and intellectual ambition is precisely nuanced, and suffused with all the cool charm of its Dutch Golden Age setting’

Kate Worsley, author of She Rises

The Words in My Hand, Guinevere Glasfurd’s captivating debut novel of a Dutch maid’s affair with Descartes, is compelling, lush, impressive’

Kate Mayfield, author of The Undertaker’s Daughter

The Words In My Hand tells a moving story with quiet confidence and masterful restraint. Glasfurd’s evocation of 17th century Holland through the voice of young Helena – servant girl and mistress of Descartes – is vivid, plausible, and hugely engrossing. An astonishingly accomplished and mature first novel’ 

Shelley Weiner, author of The Last Honeymoon

Buildings - Words In My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd - Two Roads Books


Guinevere Glasfurd Two Roads BooksGuinevere 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 manages the Words and Women Twitter feed, a voluntary organisation representing women writers in the East of England and can be found online at and @guingb.

Her new novel, THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER, publishes February 2020.

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