The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

This definitely wasn’t in my bag of books to read on the train this weekend but after finishing ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’ I didn’t fancy any of the three I had in my bag and as I didn’t do much reading over the weekend I came back on Sunday night and couldn’t decide what to read next. Now near in mind I am reading Ulysses along in the background, you might understand why big heavy tomes aren’t ideal to read along side that. So in the end I decided to follow the latest reading trend on the tubes, which thankfully seems to be less and less Twilight Saga novels, Chris Cleave’s ‘The Other Hand’. 

Now the blurb on this book has always puzzled me. “We don’t want to tell you what happens in this story. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again — the story starts there… Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.” Which not only makes you puzzled when you pick it up (though is also quite clever PR), but now makes it a nightmare for me to review. But here goes… 

The story is told from the alternating aspects of two wonderfully written female characters. One is Little Bee, who I think is a brilliant creation and could read books and books told through her eyes, the book also has the title ‘Little Bee’ in other countries. The other woman is Sarah. Through their eyes we look at sometimes shocking, sometimes saddening and sometimes incredibly funny times whwre both their lives meet. Through both of them we watch humans doing what humans do best, making mistakes, enduring hardship and building and breaking relationships through two polar opposite opinions. That is all I can say about the plot. 

If you are thinking ‘well that sounds a little dull” I promise you that its not. There is a great plot in there I just don’t want to be one of the reviewers, I am sure there have been some out there in the ether, who give the story away as I don’t think it would work if you knew more. I will say that it’s rare a book can shock me, this one managed. It’s rare a book can move me to tears, this one managed. It’s also rare a book makes me laugh out loud on public transport, this one managed. Which all in all is incredibly well done I think if one book manages all of those in less than 400 pages. In fact I think I had moved through these emotions by page 80 and continued from there on afterwards. I won’t dumb it down I thought it was brilliant. 

I will agree with a few critics on one thing not that its prose is badly written or that it’s ‘just good’ as I don’t agree with either of those statements. I do agree that whoever thought that including a letter to the ‘Dear Reader’ from the Editor at the publishing house was a very bad move. It was so patronizing and cheesy it almost stopped me from reading the book. The fact that the editor compared it to ‘Schindlers Ark’ was ridiculous as you just can’t. Then the fact that she went on to compare it to ‘Cloud Atlas’ (which I hated) and therefore compare that with ‘Schindlers Ark’ was not only incorrect but very misleading and alienating if you didn’t like either of those books. That really, really bothered me. The blurb was mysterious enough and the hype has been just about enough without a saccharine lecture added for good measure. 

Other than that it was a great read, I would recommend everyone give it ago. Don’t expect a book that will change your life, it might make you look at things differently though. You’ll enjoy yourself either way. If you have read the book do let me know just don’t give the ending away in comments for anyone who hasn’t please, thank you.

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25 Comments

Filed under Books of 2009, Chris Cleave, Hodder & Stoughton, Review

25 responses to “The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

  1. I love that blurb…very honest! I’m going to have to see if they sell this on my Kindle!

  2. Jo

    I struggled to review this one too. I think I said more than you, but I tried not to giv too much away! I kept finding myself laughing at bee’s comments and then feeling guity for doing so based on the shocking subject matter.

    • I don’t think you should have felt guilty about laughing as I think that is part and parcel of the magic of the book. You laugh one minute, you’re shocked the next and then you’re crying the next.

  3. Dot

    This sounds really good, great review Simon, I am intrigued!

  4. I knew this was going to happen: that you would read and review it and I would want to read it even more! I am going to have to cave and buy it.

    I read that a film is in the works with Nicole Kidman as one of the women.

  5. This sounds good. I agree, comparisons can be pretty misleading sometimes. Ulysses eh… that’s making me feel a little competitive now!

  6. I loved it, too, Simon. My thoughts are here. I didn’t give away the plot either. Couldn’t do it.

  7. Oh I remember your comment about getting this copy! Lol. I almost forgot.

  8. Oops, i’ve just been dazzled by the Twilight saga novels and spent the last hour writing about them!

    • I will have a look as you may very well cahnge my opinion of them all! I just felt the first one was sooooo repetitive, but then I loved the movie which was odd and the trailer for New Moon has tweaked my interest!

  9. I read this earlier in the year and wasn’t impressed. Too emotionally manipulative for my liking.

  10. I avoided reading your review, as I knew I was going to read this book very soon!

    I finished it last night and loved it! It is one of the most emotional books I have ever read and will be one of my favourites of the year.

    I’m so pleased we agree on this book!

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  16. I finished reading this wonderful book yesterday and am longng to share it, to quote from it. I found it honest, cleverly imagined (to the extent I found myself checking C Cleave’s gender, being put off for a day because I didn’t think I could trust what the author would do with the characters, then continuing – to my great reward) beautifully written. There are negative reviews on Amazon I see and I can’t understand them. Everyone should read this and I’m so sorry kimbofo found it emotionally dishonest, generally love her take on novels. A great novel. And I love Batman.

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