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21/03/2010 / Bryony Taylor

The other hand by Chris Cleave – book review

Image of the novel coverThis is one of those rare books which is so brilliantly crafted and has such strong characters that you almost mourn them when you reach the end.

Chris Cleave uses some of the techniques Ian MacEwan does – in that the characters meet at a fateful event which overshadows their lives and is the ‘ground zero’ of the whole story. However, unlike Ian MacEwan (in my view) his writing has far more humour, tenderness and most importantly for me, really lovable characters.

I was struck by the author’s ability to use images (very subtly) as recurring motifs – like a beautiful piece of music where a strain you had forgotten is repeated later or like a beautiful tapestry with a particularly beautiful thread which only appears in the image occasionally.

The book deals with a topic I have an interest in – the way the UK treats people fleeing violence from other countries. I have a friend who was in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for 22 months and treated abominably – this novel is almost a tribute to people like her. I hope part of it can be a clarion call to the government that we cannot go on treating innocent people who have been through utter horror in a worse way than we treat our own criminals.

I won’t say any more here other than to heartily recommend the book to you. Here is a short video which you may want to watch – it has the author introducing the book:

You can also see the author’s excellent website here: http://www.chriscleave.com/main/

Or follow him on Twitter! @chriscleave

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