114 of 127 people found the following review helpful
Great story, patchy prose,
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This review is from: The Other Hand (Hardcover)
This book has floated a lot of boats mainly, I suspect, because the story is so powerful. Emotive, provocative and challenging, this is a tragic human tale with much contemporary relevance, and I'm glad I managed to fight my way through the frequently ungainly prose and clunking dialogue to the fine conclusion.
At times this novel read like an early draft, not a finished work. Many sentences made me recoil and try to mentally reorganise them. (Interestingly, the first chapter was the best written. And the last too. An editor's prioritising at work here?) Some sections were very cliche-prone, others too purple. Chapter 8, for example: "I remember the exact day when England became me, when its contours cleaved to the curves of my own body, when its inclinations became my own." This is nauseating guff, and the passage gets worse, straining for literary merit, missing by a mile.
The Other Hand could, I think, make a powerful film, if offered to a screenwriter with more of a gift for natural sounding speech. The conversation between Sarah and Andrew on the Nigerian beach is typically tin-eared, beginning: "Listen to that surf, Andrew. It's so unbelievably peaceful here." "I'm still a bit scared, frankly. We should go back inside the hotel compound." (Something bad about to happen then?)
Alternating the story-telling between Sarah and Little Bee was generally effective, but about halfway through it could probably have been dispensed with altogether as a narrative device. I felt that Cleave was tying himself in expositional knots once the two characters were actually under the same roof.
If I found much to criticise, my hostility to the writing style was no doubt increased by the sensational reviews associated with the promotion of this book. These rather oddly stressed how funny the book was, despite the heavy subject matter. Not much made me laugh though.
I must repeat that this is a great story, full of unexpected turns, and it will definitely stay with me. I await the inevtable film with interest.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Feb 2009 22:17:52 GMT
Four Violets says:
Great review, thanks
Posted on 12 May 2009 12:25:22 BDT
Good review. I agree with you on the sometimes patchy prose, and it's interesting that (to me) the only poor dialogue is between the white characters. Perhaps they're just too... middle-class? But Little Bee's, Batman's and Yevette's voices are brilliantly recreated.
To some extent, it was a valid point to highlight the differences in what we consider a challenge for a person in the UK, and a person in a sought-after village in Nigeria.
Posted on 9 Jul 2009 13:01:25 BDT
T. C. Hogg says:
Good review which says all that I would want to say. This is not the best book you'll read on holiday this summer, but it's far from being the worst. I wonder if I am alone in thinking that some of the back story stuff about Nigeria is not just a bit patronising, but I've never been there so I wouldn't know.
Posted on 16 Aug 2009 08:26:25 BDT
Yellow Duck says:
". . . sensational reviews associated with the promotion of this book." Well, what do you expect? You don't hear fishmongers crying stinking fish! Graham Greene gave the ridiculous Tom Ripley novels glowing reviews. Catherine Millet's flaccid vapourings were lauded by the literary press. Amazon readers are better guided by Amazon reviewers.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 May 2010 08:32:59 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 12 May 2010 08:33:24 BDT]
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