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Hearts And Minds Hardcover – 30 Apr 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (30 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316724831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316724838
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.3 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,062,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda Craig was born in South Africa in 1959, and brought up in Italy and Britain. After reading English at Clare College Cambridge, she became an award-winning young journalist in the 1980s. She is the author of six novels, Foreign Bodies (1990), A Private Place (1991) A Vicious Circle (1996), In a Dark Wood (2000) and Love In Idleness (2003). Her novels and short stories carry characters on from one book to the next, and her new novel, Hearts and Minds (2009) is a sequel to both A Vicious Circle and Love in Idleness. She lives in London, is a reviewer and broadcaster, and is also the children's book critic for the Times.

You can find out more on www.amandacraig.com, which includes a regular blog on literary matters.

Product Description

Review

** 'This is a novel written with passion and moral outrage. It is a vivid portrait of a city that is at once familiar and disconcertingly strange (THE TIMES Joan Smith)

** 'Rich, Dickensian (SUNDAY TIMES Penny Perrick)

** 'She is a humane writer as well a waspish one and it is the plight of London's migrant workers and sink-school pupils with which she is primarily concerned here, and her passion and care are affecting (OBSERVER Lisa O'Kelly)

** 'There is much in HEARTS AND MINDS to praise . . . The book displays the author's relentless compassion. A large kindness overarches the novel (GUARDIAN Stevie Davies)

Review

'She is a humane writer as well a waspish one and it is the plight of London's migrant workers and sink-school pupils with which she is primarily concerned here, and her passion and care are affecting'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Set in contemporary London, Amanda Craig first five chapters portrays the lives of five characters who seemingly do not have any connection and it therefore seems like information overload: Polly, a refugee lawyer and solo mother; Ian, a South African school teacher teaching in one of the poorest inner London schools where most of the pupils are from Bangladesh and Somalia; Job, an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe and mini cab driver; Katie, an American working for the Editor of a Right Wing magazine and Anna, a fifteen year old Lithuanian captive prostitute. Gradually the plot unfolds and the seemingly disparate group of characters become intertwined. Often Craig leaving the reader up in the air at the end of a chapter and then not returning for 2 or 3 chapters. It makes for a page turner but the clumsily contrived tying up of the various events made for a disappointing ending. For the most part Craig's writing was very enjoyable and the cast of characters believable apart from Katie, the 27 year old US American, who seemed to me to be a highly improbable character, although the fact she only becomes attractive when wearing makeup was an endearing twist of Craig's satirical pen.
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Format: Paperback
Hearts and Minds enthralled me. The over-riding theme is the effect of immigrants, both legal and illegal, on modern-day life and how individual responses to this phenomenon define and challenge different people in different ways. The lives of six characters (five being human, the other London) are intertwined in an uncontrived manner. The five characters hail from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, USA and England respectively. As a South African, I particularly loved the insight the writer has into subtle aspects of our country. This is unusual as in my experience only South African writers manage to capture these nuances. Even the fact that one character claims, incorrectly, that white people cannot work as teachers in schools in SA because of their colour, it is true that many white people do talk this way. (The facts are that despite affirmative action only 5% of whites are unemployed while 40% of blacks are unemployed).

The other aspect I loved about the characters is that they are so human and so real; Polly is a human rights lawyers and believes fervently in her cause; helping those who deserve asylum and trying to prevent their deportation yet she is not "goody-goody" or perfect; the reader is privy to all her insecurities and also frivolities. Job, the Zimbabwean, is a very good person but he also strays. The outsider view on the English as expressed in different ways by the characters is also very insightful and amusing. London too is a character in this novel; not glorified or prettified but shown as big, bustling, impatient, exclusionary, grimy but also pretty and village-like at times.

The storyline is compelling, I could not put it down but it is by no means one of those formulaic page-turners that I despise.
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Format: Paperback
My heart and mind were moved to tears many times as I read this book.

The book opens with the murder of woman, followed by what appears to be a random stream of events. We're introduced to Polly, a mother of two kids who feels eternally guilty 'even in sleep'. She's divorced, she has a long distance relationship with a man in America, and she's a human rights lawyer who has an illegal immigrant, Iryna running her house. She understands the irony of her position, but never really appreciates what a positive impact Iryna has on her life until something happens. Ian, a teacher who works at the worst school in London, has an accident on a bike. Katie, an editorial assistant, discovers she's working for the boss from hell and that her home environment holds a few shocks. An immigrant taxi driver called Job finds a way to survive by working two jobs. All of these characters are linked and the beauty of Amanda Craig's writing is the believable, seamless way that she achieves this.

It's impossible to read this book without becoming interested in illegal immigrants as human beings, and that's the point of it I think. It tackles the realities of life that many illegal immigrants face. Contrary to popular opinion they do not all get cushy numbers on benefits, if you have a pet, it will probably live a better quality of life than they do. The law isn't always on their side either; it's shocking what happens to Job in this book.

Ian is exposed to this reality every day, as he tries to teach kids who've seen more horror in their young lives than other people can imagine. One day in his English class he asks a boy called Nadif if he has trouble writing. The boy is 'drawing stick soldiers firing guns at figures falling over in a hail of bullets and blood'.
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Format: Hardcover
In some ways it pains me to write this, because I do admire Amanda Craig for trying to write a 'state of the nation' novel; for trying to get under the skin of the hugely complex city (world?) that is London - and for evidently going to great lengths in terms of research, plotting etc.

But I think perhaps it is exactly her striving to write a novel which totally encapsulates modern London that makes this book suffer. And suffer quite hard, actually. I struggled to finish it, which rarely happens.

Hearts and Minds' main problem is that in trying to reflect 'London', rather than engaging in good old-fashioned characterisation, Craig presents a cast of characters who are essentially ventriloquist dummies for a smorgasbord of various (and usually over-simplified) political and/or societal positions. So instead of complex interior thought patterns which relate to a unique and conflicted life, most of the character's on-page time is taken up with musings on various 'issues of the day' (immigration, mainly), which serve to render them as little more than mouthpieces for each demographic/political section of a painfully over-drawn 'modern London'. So (to give just a few examples), we get the immigrants coming out with things like the following:

"We don't get good jobs, man. That's for white people."

"Without people like us, you would drown in dust. Do you think toilet paper is renewed by magic, and light bulbs never fail?"

"This is what the white man has given them, he thought, this great longing, this curiosity and thirst to learn more; but here, in the white man's own country, children have lost it."

"...he has even heard them complain to each other about how foreign shopkeepers 'put nothing back into the community.
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