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Such Small Hands

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,906 ratings  ·  321 reviews
“Every once in a while a novel does not record reality but creates a whole new reality, one that casts a light on our darkest feelings. Kafka did that. Bruno Schulz did that. Now the Spanish writer Andrés Barba has done it with the terrifying Such Small Hands.”—Edmund White

It was once a happy city; we were once happy girls. . . . Life changes at the orphanage the day Marin
Paperback, 108 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Transit Books (first published October 2008)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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 ·  1,906 ratings  ·  321 reviews

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Jean Menzies
This one has left me with a lot of thoughts running through my mind, and that is why I'm writing a short review immediately after having finished it when I should really be going to sleep. I was expecting some classic creepy orphanage story and instead got something a lot deeper. I'm torn between giving this one three or four stars so let's read that as a 3 1/2, despite goodreads refusal to allow that option.

This novella uses short simple sentences to convey complex emotions. Amongst those it ex
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
Dolls have such small hands. So do little girls. And caterpillars have no hands at all. Is there a common denominator here?

Broken, coming from together. Moody, surreal, and slightly grotesque.
Paul Fulcher
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Now deservedly winner of the 2018 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize

“Tonight we’re going to play a game,” she said.
“What game, Marina?”
“Just a game I know.”
“How do you play?”
“I’ll tell you tonight.”
“Can’t you tell us now?”
“No. Tonight.”

Andres Berba’s Such Small Hands is just 84 pages long but packs a very unsettling punch, the sort of books that lingers in one’s mind and is best not read just before bed, in much the same way as one of my books of 2017, Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin.

And as
Edward Lorn
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So much to unpack. I'm not sure I'm capable of reviewing this book. It's likely the best collection of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and parts that I've ever read. I mean that, utterly, and without hyperbole.

All this might change tomorrow, or in a week...a year, but right now I am in speechless awe of the brilliance I've witnessed within these pages.
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
the third of andrés barba's books to be translated into english (after rain over madrid and august, october), such small hands (las manos pequeñas) may be the best one yet. slim, yet unbelievably taut, the spanish writer's novella murmurs with increasing dread and unease.

marina, seven years old, is suddenly orphaned when the automobile she's riding in with her parents flips and slides into oncoming traffic. as her once-privileged life has ineluctably ended, young marina is sent to an orphanage
lark benobi
This novella is beautifully written in a hypnotic and compulsive rhythm that almost compels me to like it, but in spite of its craft it is, as a story, repulsive and ultimately meaningless.

I got to the end asking myself: ok, if I think this story so questionable, then who has written a better book with a similar theme? And I came up with Loving Sabotage by Amélie Nothomb.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is odd and rather disconcerting.
Marina is a young girl who loses her parents in an accident she survives and she goes to live in an orphanage.
This is part written from Marina's POV and part written by the rest of the girls as a collective.
It has a hypnotic rhythm and takes on an almost dream-like quality that sinks deeper and deeper into nightmare.
It's creepy and nasty but also beautiful and childish. It is certainly not what I expected.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting small read...creepy vibe and interesting writing, but I didn't really fall in love.
Fiona MacDonald
“Tonight we’re going to play a game,” she said.
“What game, Marina?”
“Just a game I know.”
“How do you play?”
“I’ll tell you tonight.”
“Can’t you tell us now?”
“No. Tonight.”

I've seen so many wondeerful reviews for this book, and when I saw that Susan Hill was rating it highly as 'much worse than a ghost story' I was very much looking forward to reading it.
The book is very short, coming in at just under 100 pages, but to be honest, I only found things getting genuinely scary in the last few pages.
An incredible and unique novella, quite unlike anything I have read, it's written almost from another dimension. The author somehow enters into a childlike perspective and witnesses the aftermath of a car accident in which the child Marina's parents don't survive.

Marina sees a psychologist after recovering from her own injuries and is placed in an orphanage. The narrative alternates between Marina's perspective and the collective "we" of all the other girls. Marina is already different, in that
Gumble's Yard
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
See this link for a very detailed, insightful and positive review of the book.

I have seen a number of other reviews which say that this book brilliantly captures – childhood: I was struggling to tie this up with my own experiences or observations of childhood – in fact the only part of my childhood it reminded me of was reading “The Lord of The Flies”.

I think for such a short novella to really work as a chilling and memorable literary horror story, it is e
Eric Anderson
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As adults we can recall flashes of feeling and indulgent fantasies that we experienced as children, but these are inevitably wrapped in a kind of silk-smooth nostalgia. Even memories of intense anger and pain are altered by the distance of time because this past now has a context. When you’re child there is no context. So much of literature tries to simulate the actual feeling of childhood, but only manages a sentimental simulation. But something in Andrés Barba’s narrative gets it so exactly, e ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A disturbing, provocative read, if more than a bit surreal. The writing is very strong and manages to transport the reader into the minds of young children in a convincing manner. It allows us to experience how they possibly perceive the world, deal with loss and yearn for acceptance. The narrative alternates between a 7-year old girl who has been orphaned in a car accident and the other children of the orphanage to which she has been sent. A dark but worthwhile read. [Final rating: 3.75*]
Proper review to come, but for now:

I think I had been expecting something a little more Gothic and ghostly, but instead this is a tale of the love and cruelty of young girls for each other, and of finding one's way in a world that is suddenly different and a lot more lonely than you're used to.

Some gorgeously poetic and gruesome use of the English language, but it's not over the top and cumbersome.

The reader is bound to get a pretty sinister picture of the events, but the writing never does spel
Mar 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wtf did I just read?
Can I please have my hour back?

This novella has a really interesting premise but fails to deliver. It's not particulary creepy or spooky. It's weird, and I don't mean "fun weird" just plain "weird".
Reading afterword really helps with understanding what the author wanted to convey, but it's a shame that the book itself wasn't able to do that.
Contrary Reader
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There. Are. Not. Words.
This book is phenomenal! So tightly crafted. The words. The tragedy. The darkness. Barba is joining Enriquez in my hall of favourite writers.
I bought this on the recommendation of the bookseller at my local independent bookstore. I am so glad I did.

Marina is orphaned when she loses both parents in a car accident. She is sent to an orphanage where her beauty and privileged life causes jealousy among the other girls. Marina's only friend is her doll which becomes a fixation for the other girls. The doll also becomes the source of a new game Marina creates.

There is a tension that runs through the entire book. It is a string pulling ti
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oh my... what have I just read ?! A story so creepy and haunting ... a psychotic nightmare, superbly written...
Opening lines: ‘Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital.’
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5* Full review on my blog: https://wheretheresinktherespaper.wor... ...more
this book was a fever.

I'm always wary reading translated books because I feel like no one can quite capture exactly what an author is trying to say in their native language as well as they can, that so much is lost in trying to find synonyms, but wow — this prose was so beautiful and rich and gutting and would never had known this is a second language edition because the story still felt clawing and tangible. i love i love
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it
A 7-year-old girl named Marina with a doll named Marina is sent to an orphanage after a car accident in which she was badly injured and her parents were killed. You’d better believe it’s creepy. Short but intense with darkly atmospheric prose.
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Scary and beautifully written (translation).
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange little book, more like a longish novelette than even a novella. I'm still undecided as to whether I like it or not.

Aged seven, Marina survives the car crash that kills her mom and dad, and, after extensive surgery, is shipped off to an orphanage: “My father died instantly, and then my mother died in the hospital” is her catchphrase. Unlike the orphanages encountered almost everywhere else in fiction, this one is an enlightened establishment. Even so, the pre-existing residents, all gir
Claire Fuller
I really wanted to love this; I enjoyed it, but I wasn't overwhelmed. It's told from two points of view: firstly a girl whose parents die in a car crash and is placed in an orphanage, and secondly from a collective point of view of the rest of the girls in the orphanage (which I thought was the most interesting part). We're very close up inside the heads of the characters and get very little sense of their surroundings or what their lives are like outside of this intense relationship between the ...more
This is the kind of writing I could only enjoy reading in my own language.
I can't get into this kind of writing while reading in english.

The book is a small novella about a girl named Marina, whose parents die and ends up in an orphanage. I didn't think it was as creepy as I see other people found it. I only liked the part of the game to be honest. I couldn't get into the story before. But it is being translated to Greek, so maybe I'll give it a try in greek.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-spanish
Artificial, pretentious, unnatural — though the book was very short, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Not my cuppa...
84% | B

You should read this if you're into:
Creepy novellas, beautiful writing, orphanages, disturbing imagery
Charlotte Jones
This was an unusual book for me to pick up; firstly it's categorised as horror and secondly it's sold to be about a creepy doll in an orphanage, things that I wouldn't usually be drawn to. However, as this is a novella and my library had a copy, I thought I'd give it a go and though it isn't the best book I've ever read, I'm glad I've had the experience of reading it.

Such Small Hands is probably the oddest book I've read. The writing is absolutely beautiful but I was lost throughout. It was conf
So this was creepy and weird. I’m not completely sure how I feel about it quite yet. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I didn’t care enough about it (due to: length? things lost in translation?), but it was also unsettling enough to keep me reading and horrifying enough to be memorable. So an even 3 stars for now.

This is the story of a broken, traumatised orphan who belatedly enters the fray of other broken, traumatised orphan who’ve already learnt to be broken and traumatised collectively. In
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Andrés Barba (Madrid, 1975), se dio a conocer en 2001 con la novela "La hermana de Katia" (finalista del Premio Herralde) excelentemente acogida por crítica y público, a la que siguieron "Ahora tocad música de baile", "Versiones de Teresa" (Premio Torrente Ballester), "Las manos pequeñas", "Agosto, octubre", "La recta intención" y "República luminosa" (premio Herralde de novela 2017). Es también a ...more

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