The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

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As some of you might know, I tend to judge a book by how much I want to start my daily commute to work. With this book, I couldn’t wait to get my butt on the train to see what was going to happen.

I won’t give any spoilers but I’ll try my best to write something worthy of your time without ruining your reading experience.

A strange, gripping story of a Nigerian girl who arrives in the UK. Her views on the world and the British way of living, her descriptions and her storytelling are enchanting in a disenchanting way. Starting from her name, Little Bee, she had me. Then the snippets of her story, and the link with the English family she is trying to reach. Her sister. Her village. Her day at the beach. And then her years of wait in the Immigration Centre – there was no way I couldn’t think of those absent looks that I’ve seen in the eyes of zoo animals time and time again and again. Being held in an Immigration Centre is like being a caged animal – you are innocent, yet you are held captive.

Her pound coin metaphor. This is on page 1 of the book, so no, it’s not a spoiler.

Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. (…) A pound coin can go wherever it thinks it will be safest. (…) A girl like me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstiles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi. Where to, sir? Western civilisation, my good man, and make it snappy.

Her strong voice that tells us that scars are beautiful, because they don’t form on the dead.

That a sad story means the storyteller is alive.

That you must always have an escape plan. From life, if it becomes too unbearable.

Written beautifully, the story is fiction but could very well be someone’s biography. An eye-opener for some (I’ve always been interested in immigrants’ conditions so some parts weren’t as surprising as they could have been if this were the first I’d read on immigration), it keeps you wondering what happened? What’s happening? What will happen? until about 20 pages from the end.

The last 20 pages are definitely forced. Someone looking for a happy ending to please the crowd. Were it for me, I would have ended the book, more realistically, at page 352.

Read it, please, and then let me know if you agree.

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One Comment on “The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

  1. Pingback: The Man On The Carpet and The Missed Holiday | Full Of Daisies

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