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Hearts And Minds [Paperback]

Amanda Craig
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

4 Feb 2010

Rich or poor, five people, seemingly very different, find their lives in the capital connected in undreamed-of ways. There is Job, the illegal mini-cab driver whose wife in Zimbabwe no longer answers his letters; Ian, the idealistic supply teacher in exile from South Africa; Katie from New York, jilted and miserable as a dogsbody at a political magazine, and fifteen-year-old Anna, trafficked into sexual slavery. Polly Noble, an overworked human rights lawyer, knows better than most how easy it is to fall through the cracks into the abyss. Yet when her au pair, Iryna, disappears, Polly's own needs and beliefs drag her family into a world of danger, deceit and terror.

Riveting, humane, engaging, HEARTS AND MINDS is a novel that is both entertaining and prepared to ask the most serious questions about the way we live.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115870
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 154,467 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


** '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)


'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' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South African Connection in London 4 Nov 2010
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is a worthy book, dealing with important issues such as illegal immigration, sexual slavery and the decline of the state education system. It explores questions of identity, isolation and loneliness and challenges many preconceptions prevalent in this country about illegal immigrants and other vulnerable members of our society. As I said, it is a worthy book that I so wanted to love, but didn't.

It is very ambitious and perhaps that is the main problem - in its attempt to cover so many issues the novel loses some of its focus and precision. Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character, and whilst this works extremely well in other novels I have read, I did not think it was so successful here. I felt that I was only just scratching the surface of one character and then the focus shifted to another. The novel attempts to convey a lot of information to the reader and in so doing, can sometimes take a "preachy" and condescending tone which I found irritating.

I would recommend this book mainly because it deals with such important issues and I think we all need to have our prejudices challenged from time to time. It is because of this that I persevered with this book, but I fear that many others will not.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging murder mystery if over contrived 1 Jan 2011
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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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep an open heart and mind 23 Jan 2011
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Untidy End
I enjoyed the book but the end was a bit odd - I think it either should have been a couple of chapters longer or perhaps it needs a sequel. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Daisy Edward
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars!
Fantastic, the novel really altered the way I view not only Britain but politics and immigration. I couldn't put it down.
Published 9 months ago by Ellis
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend.
A really involving, moving read.

Great, interweaving stories with a strong social message, thought provoking but not preachy. Hard to put down.
Published 11 months ago by Polly
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, disturbing, thought-provoking book
I can't better other reviewer's descriptions of the huge canvas this novel is painted on, as the lives of several very diverse characters slowly begin to overlap. Read more
Published 12 months ago by P. Ashley
4.0 out of 5 stars London Lows and Likes
What a great read. Loved reading the harrowing and sometimes disturbing day to day life of a wide variety of characters who all are living in London. Read more
Published 16 months ago by C. J. Rayden
2.0 out of 5 stars A hard time
As someone who enjoys both crime and literary fiction, the premise of this state of the nation novel sounded irresistible - a woman is found dead on Hampstead Heath, changing... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Kate Vane
2.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting idea
I found this novel difficult to read. No sooner had I become interested in the story but I was introduced to another character with another story. Read more
Published 16 months ago by marion kovach
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, thought provoking book
A friend recommended this book, and both my daughter and I, holidaying in tempting Antigua, found it riveting. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Thomasina
4.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking read
This novel is based in London and gives a gripping picture of contemporary life as experienced by a wide range of characters of all nationalities from many different backgrounds. Read more
Published 17 months ago by CoveyJ
5.0 out of 5 stars I just LOVED this novel!
Having just finished this novel I wanted to leave a review to let other interested readers know about it .. and I see that many got there before me!
I loved this book. Read more
Published 18 months ago by biggest Joni fan ever
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