Hearts And Minds Paperback – 4 Feb 2010
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** '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)
* A gripping, topical novel - a detective story, a love story and a book about contemporary BritainSee all Product description
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This is a world so real, not just in its finely observed details locations but the sights we see on the streets - traffic jams, hijab-wearing groups and women with buggies - to the dark crevices where trafficked Eastern European girls are stowed and abused, just a few floors beneath a young American woman working for a society magazine. The breadth of Craig's reach is immense and incisive even in passing, a S. African cab driver, an Asian anti-immigration doctor, the misuse of the NHS - the juggling and jostling of so many warring views that make one, albeit sometimes grudgingly, let in a shred of understanding of an an opposing view. And it's this maelstrom that is today's London, sweeping up the human detritus and elite, the whole range of colour and sound and silence that keeps the thoughts whirling throughout.
Amanda abandons the too-precious rules set by cautious publishers who demand a limited number of voices and gives us a cacophony; she ignores the commandment on a limited number of characters, plunging us instead into whole populations; a rough inner-city school , a car-wash consisting of of African, Asian, English workers, owners, clients, each one with a personality that comes through the briefest encounter; she disregards the edict of connecting and bringing together these many groups quickly to provide the the reader with easy connections and latch on to a central narrative. Rather, she creates a separate world with each primary character that keeps the reader immersed, taking her time, assured and in control, with a hint here, a link there, until the worlds begin to collide and coalesce. It is like living in London where we brush up against so many people and so many private dramas, know them, sympathise and move on. Yet somewhere in our subconscious, we neutralise the grief, the fear, the harshness enough so that life can continue to be lived functionally.I
t has made a lasting impact because its themes and people resonate so powerfully through my experience.
To get more into it would likely involve giving away too much plot. But that characters are all richly drawn, distinctive and vivid, the pacing is nice, short chapters so an ideal book to read on a bus commute. It's a very moral book, though not as smotheringly moralistic as say Dickens, liberal to a fault and though that point of view is not without it's problems, the alternatives tend to be far more wretched (think especially of 'The Slap', a book which veers between nastiness and trite, like an episode of Neighbours written by Spectator readers). It does suffer from one or two clichés which are to be expected. Many writers have tried to write the definitive Balzacian London novel, I think this get closer to it than say John Lanchester's 'Capital' (Lanchester's prose is slightly better mind, but his book doesn't really go anywhere and the maguffin explanation is unforgivably humdrum), but also not quite. This could easily be a five really (or a three, if I was being ruthless or in a bad mood), I can easily see people absolutely loving this and why not, it's a fine work, out of five ratings are a foolish business, but yeah, well written, executed, plotted and wrapped up nicely.
Like I said an ideal book for a commute.
In focusing one several members of the latter group, Craig highlights some of the issues - indeed social scandals in London (and any other wealthy city) today. These include teenage Anna from Ukraine, tricked into the sex industry; Job, the educated cab driver. There is also a nod to young people with a toehold on a profession, but with no hope of attaining the prosperity enjoyed by their parents' generation, represented by teacher Ian, appalled by the socially unaware wealth of his girlfriend's social circles.
As with other Craig novels, the strands weave together in a satisfactory ending. The novel can feel a little heavy-handed as it delivers its messages, but it is an enjoyable and genuinely moving read.
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