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Hearts And Minds
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on 31 January 2017
Just bought Hearts and Minds and am absolutely immersed. Touches on so much I am familiar with through work and patients that Amanda Craig has managed to represent with mind-blowing authenticity.

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.
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on 25 October 2017
Just finished reading very enjoyable, various threads wrap up nicely.

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.
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on 2 December 2017
I have not quite finished this book but am about to do so. Itt is extremely well-written and an absolute page-turner. Appropriate to its title, the book captures the heart and minds of modern London (though written a few years ago), with the label given to that city of "the most cosmopolitan in the world", ringing true. However, this is not the London of the Russian Oligarchs (though there are some of that nationality in there) or Oil Sheiks but of the middle and many unseen social groups that make up this multi-layered city. A fascinating read, which I am currently recommending to all my friends! (As a postscript, I recently discovered that the author is a fellow ex-Bedalian but many years my junior!)
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on 25 August 2015
An amazing book, I lent this to friend after reading and it's one my saddest losses as far as books go. I picked this up and thought I wouldn't get very far with it but I started and couldn't put it down. I often think of this book when sitting on a train or a taxi or simply going about my business when I travel around London or any big city really because it's a book about the unspoken layers of out society, the struggle of survival, the gifts, the kindness of humanity and the cruelty, a soup of feelings and dilemmas all woven into an incredible story about people reaching out to one another, or not. A must read as well as being an account of the things happening beneath our cities, it's a reality is pieced together in this book. Lovable characters,sad characters, living in hope and fear. you see documentaries about these invisible people coming to this country one way or another but this book opens up the dark covers that keep them hidden and how our 'above the surface' life affects them. It makes you think twice, three times when you see that pensive person on a train, or delivering a pizza, or buying the things they are used to from their country of origin. What are their lives really like? They become real, not just passer by's. A 'must' read.
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on 25 September 2016
I absolutely loved this book. I'm much more a reader of non-fiction because I always think, there's so much about the world I don't yet know and journalism is what will help me understand it. "Hearts and Minds" is one of those rare novels that does that job as well or better than any correspondent from war, migration or poverty could ever do. Amanda Craig has a very distinctive voice and the characters are so real and the worlds they occupy so compelling that I couldn't put it down. If you want to be introduced in novel format to the world also described "This Is London", by Ben Judah, this book will do it.

I think it's the greatest novel I've ever read.
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on 18 July 2017
I put my life on hold until I finished this completely absorbing book! I now very much want to read all of Amanda Craig's books. The reviewer who compared her to Dickens is spot-on (to me): she weaves a rich tapestry of characters whose fates you care deeply about as a reader, and she makes you think about the world we live in, and what kind of world we would like it to be.
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on 30 August 2012
I got a sample of this book on my kindle while I was on holiday, I had several books to read that just bored me and I couldn't get into. I wanted something different. This was certainly different. It grabs you at the beginning and won't let you go.... I stayed up until 5am to finish it. I grew up in North West London and know the areas in this book so well, as one character cycled on his bike I felt the same relief when he rode downhill! I loved Job an illegal immagrant from Zimbabwe who works two jobs, Polly, a single working parent who believes she's failing her children. Anna, the 15 year old trafficked in from the Ukraine who thinks she is going to be a waitress. Katie, the American who's trying to rebuild her shattered heart and Ian, the South African who teaches in a hopeless inner-city school. They don't know each other but their lives very cleverly entwine. I would highly recommend this book to everyone... Five stars all the way!
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on 26 July 2013
I can't better other reviewer's descriptions of the huge canvas this novel is painted on, as the lives of several very diverse characters slowly begin to overlap. Some of it is disturbing reading, especially those parts dealing with the abuse of the poor trafficked child, Anna. Not all the character's problems reach a resolution at the end, but still,there is hope that the essential goodness and integrity of the main protagonists will be rewarded with some kind of better future.
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on 12 August 2011
A thoroughly good read. This book is about five strangers residing in London whose lives are connected in quite unusual ways. The story is based around illegal immigrants living in this country. It certainly makes you think hard and deeply about the difficulties that people are faced with and how they suffer just to survive. What I thought was good about this book was that although each chapter is dedicated to one of the five people, it is written in such a clear and concise way that you never get confused, and by the time you reach the end of the novel you know your characters really well. One of the best books I have ever read.
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on 3 April 2017
Craig tells a dark tale with a twisting plot and dramatic turns that consistently enthrall. Her picture of 21st century London is detailed, witty, broad and colourful. Her social satire is biting, her savaging of the media astute. A rich addition to the capital's literary canon.
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