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The Other Hand Paperback – 5 Feb 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 356 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; Paperback Edition, First Printing edition (5 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340963425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340963425
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (356 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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)

Exquisitely balanced between terrible sadness and brilliant humour. (Observer)

Big themes, high emotion and cliffhangers aplenty... an enormously affecting investigation of love, guilt and global responsibility, told with a bittersweet urgency. (Justine Jordan, Guardian)

Searingly eloquent. (Daily Mail)

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. (Lawrence Norfolk, 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. (Daily Telegraph)

An exhilarating, disturbing read. (James Urquhart, Independent (Books of the Year))

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

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

By turns funny, sad and shocking (Sainsburys Magazine)

The next Kite Runner. (Library Journal)

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)

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)

'Immensely readable and moving . . . an affecting story of human triumph' (New York Times)

Artfully plotted... [a] strong yarn. (Sunday Telegraph)

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)

Will blow you away... the best kind of political novel: You're almost entirely unaware of its politics because the book doesn't deal in abstractions but in human beings. (Washington Post)

So far it's the best book of 2009, no question. (Metro (US))

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover
I haven't read the book yet, so can't comment on how good it is. I just wanted to let people know that this book has been published under the title 'The Other Hand' in the UK.

I almost bought both books, but realised (just in time) that they were the same thing.
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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