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The Other Hand Hardcover – 7 Aug 2008

321 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 1st edition (7 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340963409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340963401
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 20.7 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (321 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Cleave's debut novel INCENDIARY was a prize-winner and international bestseller, published in 20 countries.
Inspired by his early childhood in West Africa, THE OTHER HAND is his second novel. He is married with two children, and lives in Kingston-upon-Thames. He keeps a website at and can be found on

Product Description


A powerful piece of art... shocking, exciting and deeply affecting...[a] superb novel... Besides sharp, witty dialogue, an emotionally charged plot and the vivid characters' ethical struggles, THE OTHER HAND delivers a timely challenge to reinvigorate our notions of civilized decency. (Independent)

Searingly eloquent. (Daily Mail)

It would be hard not to romp through it. (Financial Times)

An ambitious and fearless gallop from the jungles of Africa via a shocking encounter on a Nigerian beach to the media offices of London and domesticity in leafy suburbia...Cleave immerses the reader in the worlds of his characters with an unshakable confidence. (Guardian)

totally believable... the author has a knack of explaining human suffering... I look forward to his next offering. (Daily Express)

impresses as a feat of literary engineering... the plot exerts a fearsome grip. (Telegraph)

You stay in thrall to the bittersweet end. (Scotland on Sunday )

By turns funny, sad and shocking (Sainsburys Magazine)

Warm, witty and beautifully written. (Sunday Tribune)

In a novel that tackles serious and uncomfortable subject matter, Cleave's writing makes one laugh and despair in equal measure. (4 stars) (Time Out)

A better book than Chris Cleave's THE OTHER HAND may be published this year, but I wouldn't bet on it. This exquisitely written story of a Nigerian refugee and a British glossy magazine editor is the most powerful novel I've read in a long time. . . it's also a very funny book about brave, funny people who the reader quickly grows to love. . . But the heart of the book is Little Bee; naïve yet insightful and sophisticated, damaged yet capable of great courage and humour, she is an unforgettable character. I finished THE OTHER HAND in tears, and I still can't get it out of my head. Just read it. (The Gloss)

I felt the same excitement discovering this as I did Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and Paul Torday's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. There is an urgency here, an inability to put it down and a deep sense of loss once finished. It is a very special book indeed. Profound, deeply moving and yet light in touch, it explores the nature of loss, hope, love and identity with atrocity its backdrop. Read it and think deeply. (Sarah Broadhurst, Bookseller)

Stunning... a haunting work of art. (Newsweek on INCENDIARY)

Chris Cleave has the ability to create moving and beautiful scenes within a terrifying backdrop. I couldn't put it down; it's subversive, thought-provoking and well-written. (Observer, Books of the Year on INCENDIARY)

Richly sardonic and often disarmingly poignant... How can one fail to be impressed and moved? (Guardian on INCENDIARY)

Cleave's heroine is by turns funny, sad, flawed, sympathetic, both damaged and indomitable, and triumphantly convincing. (Sunday Telegraph on INCENDIARY)

Book Description

The stunning second novel from the author of INCENDIARY and GOLD.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ms. H. Webster on 17 July 2010
Format: Paperback
I was originally intrigued by this book. The plot is fairly fast moving and there's that bit of mystery (what happened on the beach?) which kept me reading. But from about half way through, the less convinced I was about both the story and the characters, and the more I disliked what I did read about the personalities involved.

The story follows two narrators who take turns to have a voice, an English magazine editor, Sarah, who lives in Kingston-Upon-Thames, and Little Bee, a Nigerian girl just accidentally released without papers from an immigration detention centre in Essex.

Sarah's son, Charlie, came across as a brat. I went with it to begin with, thinking this was the author's intention and wanting to find out where he was going with it. But no, he was just a brat, unchecked by his mother who just went on about how hard-done-by her little darling was and practically adored by Little Bee.

It irritated me that there was such a thin justification for adultery in the book. There was a sense that everyone just did as they fancied, as "because I wanted to" was reason enough - adults and children alike.

Characterisation was at a bare minimum and by the end of the book I realised I did not understand the motivations of any of the characters. I really wanted to say I loved it because, as I say, the first half was a good introduction to a meaningful story - it just didn't deliver on its potential. Could have been a hell of a lot better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By hillbank68 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book certainly seems to divide opinions! It is a very easy read. It starts well, with Little Bee's escape from the detention centre, and its subject matter - the plight of detained immigrants and the Nigerian background - is fine. However, as it develops, it weakens. The English characters are stereotypical - an anguished 'Times' journalist, the self-made wife who runs a fashion magazine, the self-deprecating Home Office middleman Lawrence. There is also Little Bee, the asylum seeker, who is certainly not stereotypical and is, indeed, the most interesting part of the book, but there is something false about her too. It just isn't very well written (immediately after I had read it I began 'Wolf Hall, the Booker prizewinning novel and wow! what a difference) and as a result it does not convince. There are purple passages of description, dialogue which doesn't quite ring true and internal monologue which is just too matter-of-fact to fit the desperate situation the characters find themselves in. The crucial child character Batman/Charlie doesn't work, for me, even if, as the author seems to say in the afterword, he is based on the author's son. Oddly, I think the book does just about work as an allegory - Charlie representing a naive worldview of goodies and baddies, Sarah a concerned but very middle-class-English-privileged perception and Little Bee the inevitable victim, saintly and doomed. But it clearly is not meant to be such ; everything about it, down to the quotation of the various official documents relating to detention of foreign nationals in the afterword, suggests that we are to believe in it literally. And that, too often, I could not do.
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114 of 124 people found the following review helpful By BlestMiss T on 1 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I realise now that some of the negative reviews of this book have actually been rather charitable. I ignored them at my peril. Bar the second and best written chapter in this literary travesty (the reason I've given it two stars instead of one), this novel is a poorly researched, stereotype-ridden, self-important and manipulative waste of time.

Cleave wanted to make a point about refugees and asylum seekers and chooses the most clumsy and heavy-handed way possible to do it. The moral: people in the west lead such shallow and selfish lives and those darkies way yonder have such a hard time of it. Ergo westerners should be more grateful for their lot and help out a bit and Johnny foreigner should always hope for a great 'white' messiah to come to their rescue.

Cleave unwisely picked a country like Nigeria, not somewhere relatively obscure thus if he got things factually wrong hardly anyone would notice. Judging by what Cleave said in the Notes section of the book he watched some news reports on conflicts over oil taking place in Nigeria's Delta states and had the temerity to try and give his own-half baked view on what can be a very complex issue. He chooses the wrong ethnic group and part of the country to set these scenes of immense conflict. He assumes Nigerians -despite re-iterating several times that it's an anglophone country- don't know how to speak correct English unless they read the Times or Guardian. This is inspite of the fact a good deal of us already speak Dickensian English without need of even setting foot in Blighty. Cleave claims he got the protagonist, Little Bee's, 'authentic' Nigerian speech patterns from close listening and reading a couple of books on Nigerian idioms. He clearly didn't do a good job.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Greg on 28 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
I suspect my main problem with this book was the fact that it was given such a big build up by the professional reviews that I expected more than it delivered. The cover note about not giving away the ending was clever but only added to the disappointment since the finale was no big deal.
I liked the review by the Nigerian lady who felt patronised. I felt similarly. There was something of a hectoring tone throughout the book making the reader feel as if you are a shallow westerner with no regard for Nigerians who, in truth, are generally just as "civilised" , if not more so, than us westerners. Some of the dialogue is very unrealistic, forced and stilted despite some sentimental heart-string tugging moments.
All in all, an "Emperor's new clothes" novel.
I'm afraid I won't be going back to Chris Cleave anytime soon.
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