The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

The BookDepository

 Note: This book is published as Little Bee in the US.

It has been a long time since a book has moved me to tears, and even longer since one this length (375 pages) has been compelling enough to read in a single sitting, forcing me to stay up late into the night to finish it.  

This book is one long emotional roller coaster. The horrific lows enhanced in intensity by the touching, laugh out loud highs. The poignancy of the book was increased for me, by the fact that my eldest son is a very similar age to the little four-year-old boy in the book. My son’s character is so similar to his,  so I kept picturing my family when reading the book, with moving results.

The book is set in Kingston-upon Thames, which is only a few miles from my house, further increasing my relationship with it. The story focuses on two women, one a mother leading a supposedly normal life in England; the other a young woman from Nigeria who has come to the UK seeking asylum. After meeting each other their lives are never the same again.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, but just be assured that this is going straight into my top 20 books of all time.

Highly recommended.

stars51

I have just discovered Chris Cleave’s blog and it has instantly become my favourite author blog. His humour and observations are so original. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Cleave becomes one of my all-time favourite authors on the publication of his next book.

Have you read this book?

Have you read a more emotional book this year? Ever?


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59 Comments

  1. Sandy says:

    Huh! I had no idea that this book (that both you AND Simon have raved about) was Little Bee! The cover is totally different too. Another Jackie book to add to the list I guess! The funny thing is, after I read these five star books of yours, my perspective is beginning to change. Things that were 4 or 5 stars to me may want to be lowered on the scale a bit.

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m so pleased that you are enjoying my 5 star books!

      They are such a rare thing that I can see how you might go through life never reading an amazing book, so I can see why rating systems may need to be changed. I always thought you were very generous with your ratings – but then I am very mean!!

  2. Simon S says:

    You know how much I loved this book, wouldnt say its winging its way up to my top twenty or forty books of all time but I rate it very, very highly. I am really excited about Incendiary whihc is being reissued in September and thats another one I will give a whirl.

    Not very happy they are making a movie of this!

    1. Jackie says:

      I hadn’t heard of Incendiary until your comment. I will have to try to find a copy.

      I can’t imagine this being a very good film either. It would be so hard to capture the emotion without being tacky. I’ll probably still watch it though – just to see what they’ve done with it.

  3. Karen says:

    I had a very similar reaction to you when I read this one Jackie – it was so powerful and moving. I haven’t read Cleave’s other book as yet but apparently it is just as good.

    1. Jackie says:

      His writing is so moving, that even his short blog posts affect me! If he manages to write two books as good as this one then he will become one of my all time favourites.

  4. caite says:

    holy moly…now I will have to check this one out. don’t you know I NEED NO MORE BOOKS? ;-)

    1. Jackie says:

      ….even if they are as good as this one???…..LOL!!!

  5. Claire says:

    Jackie, I am intending to read it this week and really looking forward to it after Simon’s and now your favourable reviews. I was going to read it on Monday but went for Hotel du Lac instead and then picked up a book you brought to my attention, The Island at the End of the World, so going to curl up with it at the weekend.

    I am also now following Chris Cleve on Twitter :) .

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m planning to read Hotel du Lac soon and IATEOTW very soon! I look forward to hearing what you think of them.

      I’m not following him on twitter yet – but I will be after reading this comment – thank you for bringing it to my attention!

      1. Claire says:

        No, thank you! I noticed the twitter add on his blog when I followed your link.

        I’ve reviewed Hotel du Lac and I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. I think that through blogging I’m becoming a little harder on books; I’m coming across and reading such great things that if I don’t think it’s simply wonderful and five stars then I’m disappointed. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing: books should be wonderful.

        1. Jackie says:

          I am becoming much harder on books as I go along too! It is only when you read so many books that you start to realise how good some can be in comparison to other, very good ones. You need some way of sorting the good from the great.

  6. Beth F says:

    I’ve been hearing good things about Little Bee. I think you just tipped me over the edge. I’ll see if I can squeeze it in very soon.

    1. Jackie says:

      I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  7. Rebecca Reid says:

    I’ve seen tons of reviews for Little Bee, but it is yours that got me to add it to my list! I’m glad you liked it so much.

    1. Jackie says:

      It is one of those rare books which grabs your attention from beginning to end. I hope you enjoy it too!

  8. Nicole says:

    I’m always rather fascinated for the different titles in different countries. Why did we get Little Bee? Though I must admit that The Other Hand sounds a little creepy. Maybe it has to many horror flick connotations to really work here. I was going to get this book on audio, but I was going through one of my rare periods of restraint.

    1. Jackie says:

      I have no idea why there are two different titles – both fit, but it seems strange to need two. I can imagine this being good on audio – if you ever go through a period of unrestraint!!

      1. Rebecca Reid says:

        I have to agree, the title “Little Bee” is much more appealing to me (an American) than “The Other Hand” which makes it sound like not my type of book.

        1. Jackie says:

          That is interesting – that must be why they have two titles. As someone from the UK ‘The Other Hand’ is slightly more appealing. It doesn’t bring up images of horror stories, but reminds me of the saying ‘on the other hand’ meaning that things aren’t easy to decide and need careful thought.

  9. Diane says:

    I LOVED: Little Bee –amazing book. Funny about the 2 different titles.

    1. Jackie says:

      Your review was one of the ones which persuded me to buy a copy – thank you!

  10. Nadia says:

    The cover for Little Bee is so different from the one you have. Crazy! Anyhow, I read this book with great anticipation (because I read so many great things about it) and was so disappointed. I just did not like the book at all. I found it to be unoriginal and banal. And I don’t really agree with all the fuss about it. However, it sounds like you were able to get something from the book which I think is brilliant. To each his own.

    Cheers!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sorry to hear that you didn’t like it. I guess it isn’t the most original stroy in the world, but it is the power of the emotions and the pace of the book which makes me love it.

      I admit that the writing isn’t the best in the world, but if you are flying through it at the pace I did then that sort of thing doesn’t really matter.

      It is great that everyone has different taste in books. There are a lot of big names I don’t like at all. I’m off to have a quick look round your blog now….

  11. Suey says:

    Wow… with a review like that you’ll have me running right out to get the book NOW! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m pleased that you feel that way – I was worried that it was a bit short, but that is how I like it!

  12. Steph says:

    OK, you’ve convinced me to give this one a go! I’ve read so many raves about this one of late, but nothing about the book’s premise really jumped at me, so I kept giving it a pass. But the time has come to acknowledge that if so many people I respect are head over heels for this book, then there’s probably something there. I’m going to add this one to my library queue stat!

    (And I guess short impassioned reviews can be very effective!)

  13. claire says:

    So glad to see we’re on the same page on this one, Jackie! Isn’t it wonderful? Chris Cleave’s writing is amazingly lovely, and profound, and funny, all at the same time.

    1. Jackie says:

      I think it was the warm humour which really makes this book. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this book as much as me.

  14. JoAnn says:

    What a glowing review! I have this one on audio and plan to start it soon…though your review makes me wish I’d gotten the book instead.

    1. Jackie says:

      The audio book could be amazing – I’d love to know what it is like and look forward to your review.

  15. CarolineC says:

    I love your reviews, Jackie, straight to the point! Another book that I enjoyed a lot too, I really like his writing style. Incendiary is very good, his first book and I also saw the film of it recently. It’s not as good as the book but my opinion on the film might have been different if I had not done both so close together. still worth watching though.

    1. Jackie says:

      I didn’t realise that Incendiary had been made into a film. I’ll remember to watch it after I’ve read the book.

  16. SuziQoregon says:

    I loved this book too. Definitely in my top books of this year. I read a library copy and just blew through it because I did not want to put it down. I want to purchase a copy so that I can re-read it slowly and really savor the writing. I just loved Little Bee’s observations.

    1. Jackie says:

      Yes – it will be one of my favourites of the year. I’m sure I’ll re-read at some point too!

      1. Claire says:

        Wow: you don’t usually reread so that’s definitely a testament to your love for this book. I’m impressed.

        1. Jackie says:

          I’m not planning to reread it soon, but will do in 10 years+ time – when I have forgotten some of the finer details.

          There are only about 10 books which are on this potential reread list, so it is an honour!

  17. kimbofo says:

    Oh dear. Funny how people can read the same book and either love it or loathe. I loathed this one. Too emotionally manipulative for my liking.

    1. Jackie says:

      I love being emotionally manipulated! Book taste is a strange thing!

  18. Matthew says:

    Oh wow I’m glad you love it and rate it 5/5! This is one of the best reads from last year! The story touched me in so many places–I resonate with the whole immigrant experience, and the sacrifice and love.

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m pleased to hear that you loved it too. Our taste in books does seem very similar. I hope you enjoy all the books I’ve recommeded!

  19. Swati says:

    That was a very powerful review. I must get my hands on this.

    1. Jackie says:

      Thank you. I hope you enjoy the book.

  20. Melody says:

    I’ve heard a lot of raves about this book, so I’ll definitely check it out!

    1. Jackie says:

      I think the raving is justified! I hope you enjoy it.

  21. Jenners says:

    I have not read this book or seen it but it will be going on my “want to read” list now thanks to your review! I have a 4-year-old boy too so I imagine it might have some resonance with me as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m afraid your heart will be broken. Having a four-year-old just makes this book so sad. I can just imagine my little boy asking the same questions as him, and the scene at the funeral just reduced me to floods of tears….I won’t spoil it for you – just have the tissues handy.

  22. softdrink says:

    I think I prefer the British title…it has lots more meaning than Little Bee.

    1. Jackie says:

      I agree!

  23. Violet says:

    Thanks again for letting us know the name of the UK version. I asked about Little Bee last time but it wasn’t even in their databse. Now I’ll remember to ask for this one :)
    I should have checked by author name…

    1. Jackie says:

      I’ve had the same problem a few times. I often don’t know if it just hasn’t been released yet, or is published under another name. Searching by author doesn’t always work – especially if they have written a lot of books!

      I hope you can find it now.

  24. this book was suggested to my for my personal summer reading challenge…but i have yet to tackle it. now i’m moving it up in the pile and hope to finish it before august ends! thanks for the review and motivation!

    1. Jackie says:

      nat, This book is so quick to read – I’m sure you finished it in a day or two!

  25. Diane says:

    I have to get this book. If it is 1/2 as good as Little Bee, I’ll be thrilled. So happy you loved it.

    BTW…you have such a fabulous month. I admire you being able to focus on so many Booker List titles. Have a great August (i’ll be watching your progress).

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, This book is the SAME AS LITTLE BEE. It just has a different title in the UK. He does have another book out (Incendiary) and I have heard that is great too. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  26. LN says:

    I received this book for free by my work and wasn’t really planning to read it as the cover didn’t really seem that attractive and I had never heard about the author before. But as your comment is very enthusiastic, I think I’ll give it a try :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      LN, Sorry for taking so long to respond to your comment. I hope that you enjoyed it!

  27. Karen says:

    I read this one back in July 2008 as part of the Waterstones on-line bookclub. I think it was one of the few books we covered that everyone in the group liked. We had an on-line Q&A session with Chris Cleave, he was very generous in his responses to our questions and comments and if anyone is interested the posts are still available via the bookclub link on the Waterstones website. Probably not a good idea to go there if you have not read the book and do intend to read it because there will be spoilers in most of the posts.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I do know a few people that didn’t like this book – they thought it was emotionally manipulative. Almost everyone else loved it though. It is great that you got to ask him questions – he seems like such a nice man.

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