The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
What the hell is all the fuss about with this book? It’s been a huge bestseller and yet I found it a terrible disappointment. I have never read anything by Chris Cleave before but a colleague lent The Other Hand to me saying that I had to read it because it was brilliant! Now it does say in the blurb that you’re not supposed to know what this novel is about before you read it but I’m just going to tell you the jist of it anyway. It follows Sarah and Andrew who embark on a holiday to Nigeria only to come across two African girls running from a gang of men who have murdered everyone in their village because it is an oil site. The gang find the couple and the two sisters and demand that Andrew cut off his finger to save one of the sisters. I won’t tell you the outcome but I will say that the rest of the story follows Sarah and Little Bee (one of the African sisters) as they meet again years later.
To me, this novel reads like ‘serious’ chick-lit. If you like chick-lit and an easy read then this is just one step up from that. It’s certainly not a literary novel so if that’s what you like then stay away from this. I disliked most of the characters – I found Sarah especially unlikeable for several reasons – she has an affair throughout her marriage, she has no remorse for the death of her husband, the way she talks is highly irritating and she seems to have no ability whatsoever to make a decision for herself, and the ones she does have are completely ridiculous i.e taking her son to Nigeria after all the trouble she had there last time! The dialogue throughout the novel is dreadful and wooden and there were just so many unbelievable and unrealistic parts to the plot that I just got somewhat frustrated with it. For example; this gang of men who murdered an entire village for the sake of oil are not going to keep one or two of them alive if one man cuts of his finger – they are often ruthless and have no empathy for anyone’s life – all it take’s is one girl’s word to bring them down and expose what they did to her village. It just wouldn’t happen.
I can, however, appreciate the fact that Chris Cleave’s goal was to highlight the terrible sufferings of refugees and the trials that they have to go through in the UK. It does shed some light on it and it does make you think a lot more about it. After all, it is hardly something that affects us in our day-to-day lives. It is easy to forget that there are people out there going through this for years because they feel unsafe in their own country. I just think that other writer’s have probably done a better job telling this story – if you have any suggestions please let me know 🙂
I do have it on good authority that Chris Cleave’s previous novel Incendiary is much better than this novel, but to be honest I don’t think I’ll be reading anything from him anytime soon. If you are after an easy read for the beach with a bit more plot than your average chick-lit then I’m sure you will enjoy it. But if literary fiction is more your thing then definitely stay away from this!
Rating: 2 1/2 stars!