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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South African Connection in London
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...
Published on 4 Nov 2010 by Penny de Vries

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I had such high hopes......but ultimately disappointing
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...
Published on 23 Sep 2011 by Bajan Girl


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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South African Connection in London, 4 Nov 2010
By 
Penny de Vries (Durban, South Africa) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (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. The resolution of each characters' dilemma is neither predictable nor unsatisfying; a difficult balance to strike. The novel deals with human trafficking, racial and religious intolerance/ignorance, crime, institutional callousness and the single mother, all of which are highly relevant to our times. Despite being set in London, there is a universality in that many countries experience these things in different ways. I believe there are readers who, after reading this book, may well re-examine their own responses to `the other'.

The humour that popped up unexpectedly now and then had me laughing out loud. I particularly liked it when Polly, the single mother, said she needed a wife. I often said this to the men at work but had not heard it from anyone else before.

Highly recommended
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I had such high hopes......but ultimately disappointing, 23 Sep 2011
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
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
By 
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (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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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep an open heart and mind, 23 Jan 2011
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (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'. When Ian asks if they are animals the boy reveals in sad voice that they are of his family being killed by the soldiers in his village 'like animals'.

How can Ian open these children's hearts and minds? How does he open his own to discover if he is doing what he believes in or what he thinks he 'should' be doing? These are the questions that haunt all the characters.

Anna is girl who has been trafficked to London, she has a brutal introduction to her new country. While her tormentors have closed hearts and minds, hers retain hope. There's a beautifully written passage where she compares her plight to that of a bird in a nest that just made me want to cry every time I read it.

This was a painful, moving, thought-provoking book that is sympathetic to all the characters. It doesn't preach, but it does ask you to look at the world around you with a more open heart and mind.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of the times., 7 Sep 2010
By 
Pen pal "Topaz" (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
For every older teenager, at least here in the U.K., who is constantly moaning, this should be on their required reading list (for those that read anyway!). Most of us are aware that the things that go on in this book are happening, but it is brought sharply into focus. It is a snap-shot view of life in London, and probably most big cities the world over. That said, every city is unique even though the same awful things go on in them. Anna's story is absolutely heart-breaking. That any girl of 15 should have to suffer so is appalling. Job is a wonderful character, and through him we see London through the eyes of someone who has seen first hand hideous atrocities back where they come from. People can become all too complacent about what goes on in the world whilst they are so caught up in their own materialistic lives. Many angles are explored in this book, the problem of immigration, but also the flip side of the coin as to how things are for so many immigrants. A timely read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thumping good read! Thrilled to find new author, 5 July 2010
By 
Mrs. G. R. Grizaard "Reading Hag" (Perth, W. Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
I really enjoyed Hearts & Minds because I enjoy reading books set in London, having lived there myself and having just visited. I enjoyed reading about characters from Zimbabwe, South Africa & Eastern Europe who all gravitate towards London for differing reasons and with different desperation and that London is viewed through their eyes. This is the first book I have read by Amanda Craig and I hope I have stumbled across a new author that I enjoy. This book was also a hit with our book club.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 16 Jun 2010
By 
R. Butler - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
I found this book engaging and thought-provoking. It was enjoyable to read, with well-crafted characters, and has important points to make. Highly recommend.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gritty and Thought-Provoking Read, 21 Feb 2010
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
This is the kind of novel which really makes you think about the world we live in.
It follows the five lives of very different characters in London who are living in hugely contrasting circumstances.
Craig's insight into the experiences of immigrants is insightful, detailed and extremely gritty but also depressing.
The book shows how easy it is to live life anonymously without knowing who or what your neighbours are. This is particularly evident with the experiences of the young girls who have been trafficked to the UK.
The author cleverly weaves the characters' lives together and is sensitive and compassionate with their outcomes.
Hearts and Minds just scratches the surface of what life is like for many living in London. Hopefully she will write further on this topic and bring these important social issues into the spotlight.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and moving novel, 26 May 2009
By 
Charles Palliser (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
Hearts and Minds is a remarkable achievement. Many novelists have attempted in recent years to write a strong narrative with an intriguing mystery that covers a number of different areas of modern life. It's a very hard trick to keep so many balls in the air and few such attempts succeed. Amanda Craig pulls it off with huge energy and complete conviction. The lives of five people living in contemporary London gradually reveal connections - some of which they remain unaware of - in a way that makes a powerful point about exploitation and the precariousness of the wealth and freedoms that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted. You find yourself really caring about each of the characters. The author's ability to make utterly convincing scenes set in a wide range of venues - a taxi-office, a brothel, a magazine office, a rough school and many others - is deeply impressive. The story is both a fable and a whodunit - and neither the "moral" of the former nor the solution to the latter is spelled out. This is not a novel that insults its readers' intelligence.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Read, Surprisingly Funny, 17 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Hearts And Minds (Paperback)
I lost Hearts and Minds half way through due to a house move, and had that terrible hungry feeling until I refound it at the bottom of box. Then I could not put it down or let it out of my sight in case it vanished again. I reread a whole lot I had read before, and enjoyed it even more second time - desperate to find out what happened to the complex cast of London characters - most of whom had arrived from somewhere else or, if not them, then their forebears. I love Craig's descriptive prose, she is particularly good on how London strikes all the senses: the transition of sky from day into evening, the effect of rain on pavements, trees, and London landmarks, which made me 'look' at them again. I read those passages more than once. Masses of felicitous phrases. Lots of interesting and gripping plot - although I wanted to know a lot more about Iryna and her sister Galina and what exactly happened there and why - but then I love detective fiction. I liked Katie's story, and the way she reacted to the poor little girl she rescues, and found it sympathetic and interesting without it being overstated. The passages about the Rambler magazine were amusing - brought back memories of the discomfort and weird politician-spotting of rammed Spectator summer parties. There are plenty of good jokes too, even in the darker passages. Really a compelling read about contemporary London that sets out to entertain and reveal, and succeeds brilliantly.
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Hearts And Minds
Hearts And Minds by Amanda Craig (Paperback - 4 Feb 2010)
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