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Such Small Hands

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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  2,269 ratings  ·  376 reviews
Life changes at the orphanage the day seven-year-old Marina shows up. She is different from the other girls: at once an outcast and object of fascination. As Marina struggles to find her place, she invents a game whose rules are dictated by a haunting violence. Written in hypnotic, lyrical prose, alternating between Marina’s perspective and the choral we of the other girls ...more
Paperback, 108 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Transit Books (first published October 2008)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,269 ratings  ·  376 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
...more
Zoeytron
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
...more
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 month...next year, but right now I am in speechless awe of the brilliance I've witnessed within these pages.
...more
jeremy
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, translation
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
...more
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.
...more
Lisa
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.
...more
Martyn Stanley
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This I think was originally written in Spanish. I don't know if it's the style of the writing, or the fact that it's translated from Spanish, but this is a really strange read.

Before we get stuck into the review, as well as a reader, I'm a author. Hence the free plug:-

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Right! That'
...more
Anja
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting small read...creepy vibe and interesting writing, but I didn't really fall in love. ...more
S̶e̶a̶n̶
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an ocean of heads
Recommended to S̶e̶a̶n̶ by: a hard, shiny memory
Seven-year-old Marina lives through an automobile accident that kills both of her parents. Following recovery from her injuries—these having left a long scar across her torso—she is sent to an orphanage, where the girls living there quietly observe her. Marina is an aberration among them—one whose previous middle-class upbringing and lifestyle is foreign to them. They who have lived their lives without true freedom or family support in this isolated place—their only guidance from a sole overseer ...more
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.
The
...more
Claire
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
...more
Eeva
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.
...more
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.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

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
...more
Obsidian
I was supposed to read this as a potential book for last year's Halloween bingo. I bought it, but ended up reading other books instead of this one. I have to definitely say that this is a really great horror book, but also an interesting look at a group of girls and one specific one and how girls, just like boys, can be quite vicious at times. I thought this was an interesting book and the language used at times makes you picture scenes in your head. A definite must read.

"Such Small Hands" follo
...more
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
Zak
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*]
Anuradha
Oct 24, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 🌟🌟🌟

-Creepy
-Haunting
-Unsettling
Figgy
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
...more
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.
Elizabeth☮
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
...more
Ke*
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...
alexandra leigh
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
...more
thehalcyondaysofsummer
Opening lines: ‘Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital.’
Lauren
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5* Full review on my blog: https://wheretheresinktherespaper.wor... ...more
AC
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...
Bookish Bethany
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
A bizarre and haunting little novella, unlike anything I have read before. The prose is lush and ingenius, ludic to the point of exetreme beauty. There is a sense of unease that builds throughout - the perspective of Marina shifts to the perspective of the girls' tragic greek chorus. Orphaned Marina presents a shift, she enters an orphanage of girls who all look, act and dress the same - entranced in routine and innocence. Marina, beautiful and strange, coming from another, distant life of trage ...more
Jill
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.
Alan
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Scary and beautifully written (translation).
Gemma Cemetery.of.forgotten.books
Full review to come 3.5
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Andrés Barba is the award-winning author of numerous books, including Such Small Hands and The Right Intention. He was one of Granta's Best Young Spanish novelists and received the Premio Herralde for Luminous Republic, which will be translated into twenty languages. ...more

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