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Hearts And Minds Paperback – 30 Apr 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; PROOF edition (30 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408701901
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408701904
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,083,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

** '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)

Review

'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'

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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'.
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Format: 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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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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