Chris Cleave – The Other Hand

13Aug09

As far as I’m concerned, this book represents everything that is wrong with the publishing industry at the moment. I’ve read some fantastic reviews about this book, and was really looking forward to it, despite being quite unimpressed with the two marketing stunts the book (I don’t know whether this should be attributed to the author or the publishing company) tried to pull:

One was the blurb at the back cover, which reads:

We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.

Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we just say this:

This is the story of two women.

Their lives collide one fateful day. and one of them has to make a terrible choice.

Two years later, they meet again – the story starts there…

Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.

Seemingly inspired by the fantastic Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which also has a blurb refraining from giving an accurate gist of the story, I wasn’t too put off by the above, on its own. However, the opening page of the book has an “editor’s note” that starts:

Dear Reader,

You don’t know me. I’m Chris Cleave’s editor, and I’m writing to tell you how extraordinary The Other Hand is.

She goes on to categorize the book with the likes of Schindler’s Ark and Cloud Atlas, and makes it sound like the best thing since sliced bread.

Now, I know the book requests me not to disclose any more facts, so I’ll just state three points that aggravated me most about it (and I think there were far more than three):

  1. One of the protagonists talks of her country, where people don’t understand what ‘wood floors’ and ‘coffee tables’ mean. Yet, they’re massive U2 fans. That’s the one thing that unites people world-wide: Everyone loves U2.
  2. The book is repetitive – repetitive to the point where it feels patronizing, and you get a jolt of deja vu: Hang on, I’ve read this before. You flip back a couple of pages, and sure enough – you have.
  3. The other protagonist has an insipid lackluster personality, but, she’s still capable of making a ‘terrible choice’ (note: the ‘terrible choice’ is more of an ‘incredible sacrifice’, but, I don’t think that would sell as well).

I also thought that the book went in for the ‘shock’ factor, without dealing with the sensitive and controversial topics that it addresses. Characters lacked depth, the two narrators weren’t realistic, and a lot of the story was unbelievable. There was, I thought, one saving grace to the book: the child you see on the front cover, but the author managed to ruin that as well, by overusing his single nuance.

Sorry publishers, but I didn’t really feel like telling my friends about this book after I read it.

Rating : 1

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9 Responses to “Chris Cleave – The Other Hand”

  1. 1 Missy

    Well, at least you finished reading it. I would have given up on it immediately. I am not a very patient person! One thing that irks me is if an author is too wordy. I enjoy books that stick with the subject and don’t branch off into other stories…it confuses me. :)

  2. It’s definitely either a love it or hate it book!

    The publishing choices really, really annoyed me but I wasn’t offended by the content so much.

  3. Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this one – I loved it! It does seem to polarise people though. I hope you enjoy your next book more.

  4. Interesting. I’ve read other reviews where people loved the book. I really hate the whole “you’re going to love this book but we don’t want to give anything away about the content so just read it” thing. I think it’s really stupid. Now I’m confused about reading this one!

  5. @Missy : The “good” thing about this book was that it was ‘easy reading’. I finished it within about two and a bit hours (with lots of speed reading). So, while patience isn’t my strongest suit, it wasn’t that hard to persevere.

    @Claire : I agree, I think. Not seen any reviews saying it’s “okay”. Don’t think the content merited the publishing choices, but… then again, few books can match those kind of publishing choices, in my opinion.

    @Jackie : I’m reading The Wilderness right now, so it’s relatively “safe”. :)

    @lahni : Think you should read it. As Claire pointed out, it’s a “love it or hate it” book, and there’s only one way to find out which category you’ll fall in.

    If you’re okay with getting some of the content, let me know, and I’ll drop you a line :) I thought I’d adhere to the publishers request, albeit I don’t know why!

  6. Yay finally someone else thinks this book was not all that. I still think Little Bee was a pretty good character but everything else was not so great. Oh and the kid was much too cutesy.

    • I know – I think Cleave overdid the kid’s character and ‘obsession’. Yay! Finally someone who agrees with me about the book not being great! (PS: I found Little Bee patronizing at times, but, maybe it’s just me)!

  7. 8 novelinsights

    Oh your review has made me giggle. Yes I do totally get everything that annoyed you, it just didn’t annoy me quite so much and I thought other bits made up for the patronising-ness. Thankfully I didn’t get the editor letter in my edition!

    • Oh, lucky you! I think that editor letter was over the top, and just bad bad publicity. I think common sense prevailed, and they realised that comparing this to Schindler’s Ark is just… daft!

      Am glad you enjoyed it though… :)


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