Kathy's Reviews > Hand Me Down World

Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones
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Apr 22, 2011

really liked it
Read from April 14 to 16, 2011

I approached this book with some trepidation, mainly because it had received such favourable reviews that I worried I might be disappointed!
Despite its apparent simplicity, this is a complicated novel. It’s the story of Ines (not her real name) and her journey to find her child. The first section describes how Ines interacts with those she meets in her journey. To me, although this was a fascinating view of the lives of a range of people (the truck driver, the hunters...) it was not very engrossing in terms of discovering anything about Ines herself. I found this section too objective, a narrative. Perhaps this was the author’s intention, in which case he succeeded!
The description of Ralf’s blindness was masterly. Jones’ language was simple but brilliantly apt.
Despite learning more of Ines’ adventures, and the straits to which she had been reduced in her journey, I was still unable to feel close to her. To me, she was not real. Jones has a marvellous grasp of language, but he did not make Ines into a real person for me, and I need a real person if I am to have empathy and understanding of their actions. I felt that I should be more empathetic, because, after all, she’d been treated disgracefully and had a burning need to see her child, but I did not actually feel this way! This is the superficial aspect of this novel.
This novel is challenging in that it makes the reader question her reaction to people, in this case, to Ines. I think Jones was making a very important point – Ines could not explain herself or defend her actions because she could not make herself understood. She was a refugee, out of her environment, without language, without ready access to people and services. I am ashamed to admit that I fell into the trap of judging her, and I thought I was a very non-judgemental person and have been known to rail at people for judging refugees! Jones has shown that it is so easy to see people out of context when we they are unable to communicate, for whatever reason.
Although at the time I found this novel less than engrossing, I’m glad I read it for the lessons I learnt about myself. As I said, it’s a deceptively simple novel with hidden depths, if the reader is willing to meet the challenges.
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04/28 marked as: read

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