Ruth's Reviews > The Other Hand

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
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Oct 04, 2013

it was ok

Chris Cleave is to be admired for his clear intent of making people sit up and take notice on the issue of asylum seeking. This book tackles this serious matter in a popular fiction format, but ultimately fails because the format cheapens the seriousness.

Initially I was captivated by the narrative voice of Little Bee, a young woman from Nigeria seeking asylum in the UK. Her outsider perspective successfully cast the cool light of irony on British society. Her predicament rang true and she seemed a suitable character through which a story could be distilled. But the story turned out not to belong to Little Bee.

It turned out that this was a book with large emotions on every page, a huge sweep of events and incidents which tumbled over each other at a rapid, too rapid, pace, with reader-manipulation cringingly obvious and the whole caboodle smothered with a big fat coating of melodrama. The result was that, sadly, the plot became unbelievable and the issues devalued. Oh, and the child, initially appealingly portrayed, just became irritating.

So, one star for the character of Little Bee and one star for ambition (possibly misguided). And I nearly gave a star for some good writing and clever turns of phrase but unfortunately, by the end of the book, these started to feel like an over-indulgence by the author, the literary equivalent of empty calories.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 4, 2013 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Loved your line "the whole caboodle smothered with a big fat coating of melodrama". Yes, that kills the pleasure of a book for me as well. The ratings are all over the place on this one...Great review.

message 2: by Ruth (last edited Oct 05, 2013 07:29AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth Thanks for your comment, Florence.
Yes, some people seem to love this book and I read it because recommended. But it wasn't for me, although I do think it was well-intentioned - to draw attention to the issue of asylum. The author had clearly done an amount of research etc. The trouble was, once I suspected I was being manipulated in my liberal heart to think it was an important book, I rebelled and saw through all the literary techniques going on and being used in a fairly cack-handed (do you know that expression over the pond?) way. In fact, I got cross. I've also read 'Gold' by the same author and looking back on my review think I had the same sort of response. I read this one partly because a reviewer of 'Gold' found it disappointing in comparison to 'The Other Hand'.
It seems Chris Cleave just isn't my cup of tea.

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh I dislike being manipulated, and I'm a liberal as well:) I've never heard either of the expressions 'cack-handed" or 'over the pond' - you've peeked my curiosity with both of them though. Your review brings back how I feel about "The Kitchen House" - almost angry. ""

Ruth I love that review, Florence, and it sums up very well what I was trying to get at.
'Cack-handed' means clumsy, but it has a whiff of the smelly stuff, if you see what I mean.
'The Pond' is the Atlantic ocean; I probably should have given it a capital - not sure.

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Thanks for the explanation Ruth, you're to kind:) But please don't devalue your own writing by saying it sums up what you were 'trying' to get at - I'm serious, your review of this book is brilliant and perfectly articulated. Just saying.

Ruth Thank you, Florence :) I think "Less is more" is the telling phrase from your review. I find I have difficulty with books which try to batter you into submission through overstating everything, which exposes all the cogs turning. That infrastructure should be well-hidden.
I like to feel I am discovering something as a reader, not being whacked over the head with it! Give the reader some credit, I say!

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh It's why I don't often listen to books on tape Ruth, unless driving - then they're perfect & I choose 'pulp' fiction - you can turn your brain off:)
Like you I want a story with nuances, subtleties that make me want to re-read passages - that challenge. Find that difficult to do, rewinding's is too distracting.
Just read a review of a taped version of Cannery Row by a lady who's opinion I really respect, her reaction 'is that it/all?' 2 stars. I so wanted to suggest she try reading it instead, it's wonderful but in a quiet way.
Yes, sometimes authors do beat you over the head - and it's annoying! LOL

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