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Hand Me Down World

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,456 ratings  ·  235 reviews
A woman washes ashore in Sicily. She has come from north Africa to find her son, taken from her when he was just days old by his father and stolen away to Berlin. With nothing but her maid's uniform and a knife stashed in a plastic bag, she relies on strangers— some generous, some exploiting—to guide her passage north.
These strangers tell of their encounters with a quiet,
Hardcover, 313 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf Canada (first published 2010)
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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,456 ratings  ·  235 reviews

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Nancy Oakes
There are a number of novels where the story is told in a number of different voices, but I do believe this one may win the prize for the largest number of narrators. It is a bit reminiscent of modern television documentaries in which multiple people relate their experiences relating to a given topic; unlike television however, the story is not passive; it is one in which the reader has a job to do in interpreting what's really going on -- if he or she can find any reliability in the narration. ...more
Nov 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia-nz
"I used to find myself saying, I can't imagine. But, I've since found out, you can-it's just a case of wanting to."

This discovery has been made by Abebi, the adoptive mother of the child that was stolen from Ines, the child she crosses from Tunisia to Germany to find. How has this revelation come to Abebi? She has read the testimonials of all those people whose lives were touched by Ines as she was passing through, which, in fact, make up the book that we have just read. And like Abebi, like the
Ae Lynch
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This latest novel from Lloyd Jones is the compelling and intriguing story of "Ines", an African hotel worker who travels illegally to Europe to find her son. This story is told through the narratives of the various characters she comes into contact with on her journey (as they hand her down from one to the other, the idea which provided the title), and then from her own perspective. In this manner the novel focusses on how people treat each other, and also on how they shape their world according ...more
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a women know to the reader as Ines. Ines makes a long, hard, and often dangerous journey from Africa to Europe in search of a child.

'Hand Me Down World' is actually one story, told twice. The first half of the book is narrated by the people who Ines meets during her journey. From the truck driver who gives her a lift to the blind man who used her as his eyes. Ines is 'handed down' from person to person - slowly making her way to her destination, with the determination that
Oct 27, 2011 rated it liked it
This was kind of a frustrating book for me. Ostensibly the story of a woman searching for her kidnapped son, it's told instead through the points of view of people she meets along her journey. As has been said in other reviews, we don't even get her real name, and most of the time she isn't even given one. We don't get the woman's point of view until about 2/3 through the book, and then it differs from the other accounts. You don't ever feel like you really know her. With the added not knowing w ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked those old Italian resistance fighters.
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
I always feel bad giving a well written book such a low rating. The author is definitely a good writer. This is quite enjoyable until the last 2/3 or so when the main character begins her account of what happened on her journey to find her kidnapped child. Her version deviated to greater and lesser degrees from the narration of others, but in ways that either didn't matter or had Me wondering what the point was in changing the narrative from what the original teller reported. It didn't add to th ...more
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hand Me Down World is the 12th book by New Zealand author, Lloyd Jones. Ines is a black woman who works as a hotel supervisor in Tunisia until a series of events compels her to make her way to Berlin. Those events and the stages of her harrowing journey, her arrival and stay in Berlin, her arrest and imprisonment, are told by people she encounters along the way, and eventually, by Ines herself. Thus the reader first sees events from the point of view of observers: another hotel worker, a police ...more
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars, rounded up. The story of an African woman searching for her baby who was stolen from her by the father and taken back to Germany. The story is being told in fragments by all of the various people who came in contact with her on her perilous journey as an illegal alien crossing Europe.
It would make a good European movie. The story is handed off like a baton from one character to another, completely disparate and unpredictable in their interaction with the protagonist. Great locales f
Nov 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first part of the story is narrated by various people who encountered a woman and helped her in her quest to travel to Berlin to find her young son. I thought this was intriguing and I really liked how they all helped her in different ways, some good, some not so good, from a truck driver, snail shell collector to a chess player and other interesting characters.

As the story goes on we gradually learn a little more about this woman from Africa, until she herself narrates the last part and we
Robert Wechsler
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australasian-lit
The first 120 pages of this novel are very special. They consist of various first-person narratives (told verbally) that follow the progress of a young African woman who travels to Europe as an immigrant without papers. Sometimes she is the center of the narratives, sometimes they only touch on her. The voices work; everything about them works.

But then Jones decided to have much longer narratives and, although they are well written, they fall far short of the first section of the novel. They are
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. This is one of those books you can't bear to finish because you don't want it to end...
To see my review, please visit
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 engross
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever wanted to read a story about true courage, resilience and strength, than this would be the only one you'd ever need to read.

This novel follows the story of an African woman (who's name you're not even sure of throughout the entire novel) working as a maid in a tourist resort. It's there that she falls for a tourist who gets her pregnant, but tricks her and leaves her - taking their baby with him to Berlin. You are heartbroken for this woman before her story has even began. The s
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
People lie. Not just to the world, but to themselves. This is the barb of truth at the end of "Hand Me Down World", which, difficult though it may be to accept, is impossible to deny. Jones presents several witnesses on his quest to tell the story of the protagonist, whose fate seems doomed from the very first page. We hear accounts from those who apparently know this woman, or have known her intimately in the past, as well as installments from people whose paths crossed with her only briefly. W ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 I read his novel, Mr. Pip and loved it though there were many dark and brutal parts. This novel I liked but not quite as much. This is a story that starts in Africa, where a woman has a baby and then her baby it taken away by its father without her permission. She than goes on to try to get her baby back, a journey that takes her to Berlin.

This is a very sparsely written and very unusual detective novel. What happens to Ines and whom is responsible? We hear from many different people she met
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-view
This was such an unusual and interesting book. It is the story of a courageous mother fiercely determined to find the son who has been taken from her, in a journey which takes her across continents. In the first half of the book, we hear of bits and pieces of her journey from those whom she has encountered along the way. In the second half of the book, she tells her own story, fleshing out events, filling in missing details and correcting lies and omissions by the previous narrators. Thus her st ...more
Tony Nielsen
Apr 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
While I really enjoyed this Kiwi author's earlier hit novel Mr Pip, Hand me Down World is frankly under-welming. I couldn't wait to finish it for all the wrong reasons. Not many books don't hold my attention once I have chosen to read one, so this was a disappointment.
Houlahan houlahan
Sep 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Started off with a real hiss and a roar, but this quality is not sustained. Some excellent passages. Very heart rending in parts. He is our leading living writer, in my opinion.
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it


I have never read any Lloyd Jones before so had no expectations - and as it was lent to me I didn't even really register till I'd finished it that that it was a male author writing about a woman and, at least in part, in a woman's voice . I'm usually a bit wary of that, though Arthur Golden's 'Memoirs of a Geisha' went a long way to reconciling me.
I'm not sure if it has any relevance here, except that somehow , desperate and female though the plight of Jones "Ines" is, I just could not
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Who is Ines, an illegal African migrant who embarks on a hazardous sea crossing to Italy and Germany in search of her stolen son? That answer is revealed slowly and painstakingly in this haunting new book by Lloyd Jones, author of the acclaimed Mister Pip.

When we first meet her, Ines is working as a maid in a tony Tunisian resort, where women routinely supplement their wages with “hotel sex.” In the first few pages, we learn that she is seduced and impregnated by a callous black German guest, Je
Jennifer (JC-S)
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: librarybooks
‘To hold onto even a little is still to have it.’

This is the story of a woman we know as Ines: an African woman who travels illegally to Europe to try to find her son. Ines’s story is told through the narratives of various people she comes into contact with during her journey as they each hand her from one to the other, and then from her own perspective. This method of narration allows us to see how different people perceive and treat Ines (and each other) and how each person’s view of the world
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about one woman’s journey, physical and emotional, from Africa to Europe in search of a child, but it’s just as much about the individual journeys of all the people she meets, who help or hinder her along the way. It’s a book about home, and what the concept means.

She calls herself Ines, and she’s not the kind of person any of us has met in real life or on the pages of fiction before now. She’s someone who wouldn’t draw any attention, who you might look right through. Sometimes yo
Alison Wassell
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-readers
This is an unusual and thought provoking novel that is surely destined to linger in reader's minds for a long time.
The first section of the book consists of a series of 'testimonies' of those whose lives have in some way been touched by the central character, an African woman known as Ines, as she is 'handed down' between them from Tunis to Berlin in search of the son she has been tricked into giving away. Through these narrators we learn Ines' story at second hand, and in a fragmentary way, ne
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012, novels
emergency read while I wait for the library to re-open (damaged roof) and I can pick up all the lovely reservations waiting for me. This book is my wife's, but I have always meant to read it as I liked 'Mr Pip'.

this book suffered because for some reason - well, work, family etc, the usual reasons - I couldn't get a good long run at it. I think it was a fine novel. It was a fine novel, a moving account of an African woman trying to trace her abducted new born son. The son is taken by its father t
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-novel
I love books for Christmas! Lloyd Jones last year almost won the Booker prize for Mr Pip. This year through modern Berlin he writes of a journey, from a woman who lets very little of herself escape to the outsider, in her journey to see her child stolen by trickery. There are some pretty nasty characters, but none are free from using others for their own needs, whether sexual or for other purposes. The story unfolds from North Africa, through Europe to Berlin and back to Italy. The woman, whose ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Amazingly I give this book three stars. I didn't enjoy the style of writing - I thought the narratives blended into one persons voice - but was that the intention of the author? I actually didn't really enjoy reading it until the last third and more so when I actually finished it. What I enjoyed most is the questions it posed as I thought about the book in days afterwards. The book certainly made for good discussions at our book club. I
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
A touching tale of a woman trying to make her way through the world. Washed ashore and then left to fend for herself, Lloyd Jones gives her life many different perspectives and allows readers to judge her for themselves. It reads like short stories and shows us the undeniable talent of the author when it comes to sketching out brilliant characters for his readers. Mr. Pip is still my favorite book by this author though.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. I love the style and the structure of this novel - we learn the story of the central character Innes, through all the people she has encountered on her harrowing journey to retrieve her son. It's not until the second half of the book that we hear her tale in her own voice. Masterful storytelling and very poignant. Probably the best Lloyd Jones I've read yet.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Tender, moving, beautifully written. A brilliant follow up to Mr Pip.
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Lloyd Jones was born in 1955 in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, a place which has become a frequent setting and subject for his subsequent works of fiction. He studied at Victoria University, and has worked as a journalist and consultant as well as a writer. His recent novels are: Biografi (1993); Choo Woo (1998); Here At The End of the World We Learn to Dance (2002); Paint Your Wife (2004);and Mister Pi ...more