Hearts and Minds – Amanda Craig

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 Long listed for the Orange Prize 2010

Hearts and Minds seems to be one of the most praised books on the Orange long list this year. It’s London setting appealed to me and so I decided to read it, despite the fact it didn’t make the short list.

Hearts and Minds gives a snap-shot of life in London today. Its range of characters shows the diversity of people living in the capital city and the problems faced by them. We see asylum seekers, teachers, prostitutes, taxi-drivers and a whole range of other people. I normally struggle to cope with this many characters, but the vividness of the writing meant that each one jumped off the page and I had no trouble keeping track of them all.

The book impressively manages to combine a murder mystery with literary fiction. In many ways it reminded me of The Road Home by Rose Tremain, but I actually think that Hearts and Minds is the better book.

The story is split into several narratives which at first seem independent, but as it progresses connections are made until everything comes together in the final poignant chapters.

This isn’t a pleasant read; we witness the worst of London society, but the power of the words had me gripped from beginning to end.

He thinks about how, all along the street, there must be flats like this one in which other girls have been raped and beaten, flats that are perhaps now occupied by happy couples or successful professionals or pensioners, all with the same sash windows and lumpy corniced ceilings; and yet this horror has happened here. A sensation of lives layered on top of each other, which he will never know about, overwhelms Ian momentarily.

I have no idea why this book didn’t make the Orange short list. It deserved to be there.

The Thoughts of Other Bloggers

…even more gripping and packs more of a punch than anything I’ve read in 2010 so far. The B Files

It is page after page of unrelenting misery. Books Please

….characters so well-drawn that they become so close to you It’s a Crime!

…somehow Amanda Craig touches on the reality and the truth of this and you really do want to weep. Dovegreyreader

Are you planning to read Hearts and Minds?

Why didn’t this make the Orange short list?

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  1. Verity says:

    Am glad you agree with me! This was definitely the best book I read from the longlist – what a read, absolutely gripping,a nd I think I would agree with your comparison with A road home – similar but better.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, It is one of my favourites from the Orange long list too. I think The Help just beats this one at the moment, but it is a shame neither made it onto the short list.

  2. Karen says:

    I just bought a copy of this last week and am really looking forward to reading it after all the great things I have heard about it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I’m sure you’ll love it – I look forward to seeing your review.

  3. Amy says:

    Sounds like a very interesting book. Murder mystery and literary with a huge cast of compelling characters? I want it! heh

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, It is as good as it sounds (as long as you don’t mind books that are a bit depressing)

  4. JoAnn says:

    I’m adding it to my list right now!

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, I hope that you enjoy it!

  5. Stujallen says:

    i do enjoy books with mutiple narrators so may look at this one jackie ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stujallen, I normally prefer a single narrator, so that just proves how good this one is!

  6. I’m really looking forward to reading this; without having done so already I can’t speculate about its exclusion from the Orange shortlist but this year has been a little inexplicable in its choices.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, The more Orange books I read, the more confused I get. I have no idea what those Orange judges were doing!

  7. Wendy says:

    Well, now I have to read this one! Actually, you had me the minute you said it reminded you of The Road Home, which I absolutely loved. Thanks for the terrific review, Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Wendy, I enjoyed The Road Home too, but adding a murder mystery to anything seems to make it appeal to me more. I have a feeling that you’ll prefer The Road Home to this one, but I think it will be a close call. Enjoy!

  8. LizF says:

    I read it last year after a blog by Lynne at Dovegreyreader and was absolutely gripped by it. Very little else got done while I was immersed in it even though it was very bleak indeed at times.
    I can’t understand why it has not got the recognition it deserves – I have read a few of the Orange Short list and apart from Wolf Hall, I can’t work out what they have got that Hearts and Minds hasn’t got. Maybe the judging panel don’t like something this gritty that is close to home!
    There again what do I know , I’m not a member of the literati!

    1. Jackie says:

      LizF, I had trouble putting this one down too!

      I’m slowly working my way through the short list and so far I’m baffled by the selections. I would love to know why this one failed to make the cut. It sounds as though we are having similar experiences with the list. Shame the judges don’t agree with us.

  9. Linda P says:

    I know from your review comments and others that this will be a challenging read, but I still plan to do so as this book is on my wish list.
    I have enjoyed your photos of your time away and look forward to your next reviews now you are back on your blog.

    1. Jackie says:

      Linda, I wouldn’t describe this as a challenging read (unless you mean the dark themes). It does have a lot of characters, but it is quite easy to read (and hard to put down!) I hope that you enjoy it.

  10. Steph says:

    Oooh, this one sounds really good! I’m always looking for strong mysteries that are a bit more unconventional, so this sounds like it could be a great fit for me.

    I was actually kind of disappointed that The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton didn’t make the short list for the Orange Prize, because I thought it was a really provocative novel. The titles that did show up seemed kind of lackluster in my opinion, so I’m not sure how much stock I have in the outcome of the prize this year.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I was sad that The Rehearsal didn’t make the list – I thought it was very innovative and deserved to make the short list. I thought it had a good chance of winning too. I will be very interested to see who wins, but going on their choices so far I’d say Wolf Hall is looking less like the winner.

  11. Jenny says:

    I added this to my TBR list recently, and it sounds like I should bump it up to higher priority! I am a little worried about its being depressing, but summer is a good time for reading depressing books, I always feel.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I like reading depressing books in the bright sunshine too! I didn’t find this as depressing as some people, but then I have read The Kindly Ones recently ;-) I hope you enjoy it!

  12. This sounds so good! Thanks for the review and welcome back :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Thanks Sheila!

  13. Sandy says:

    I believe you have hooked me again. It sounds like a great read. I don’t know what happens with these long lists and short lists and prize winners. Who is judging? Reading is so personal – how can any of this be subjective?

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Sorry to be adding to your TBR list again :-)
      I agree that reading is very subjective, but I can normally see why a book is special even if I don’t enjoy reading it. In the case of the Orange this year it is making no sense to me!

  14. Jessica says:

    thanks for the review, this is a subect which appeals to me so I’m glad you liked it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up.

  15. Jenners says:

    Although there isn’t a chance my husband would ever read this book, I still must ensure he doesn’t so he lets me talk him into taking a family trip to London next year!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, LOL! I hope you manage to persuade him to book that trip!

  16. JoV says:

    I love the Road Home, by tremain. But if you say this is better, than I have to read it!!

    1. Jackie says:

      JoV, They have similar themes and I loved the Road Home, but the complexity of this one won me over. I hope you enjoy it too.

  17. Linda P says:

    Yes, Jackie it’s the dark themes that would challenge my emotions, I think. I read Tremain’s The Road Home earlier in the year with a similar subject and that touched me. Once more, thank you for your blog.

    1. Jackie says:

      Linda, I hope that you enjoy Hearts and Minds as much as The Road Home.

  18. Jo says:

    I couldn’t put this down either. I’ve always liked multiple narratives and it was the main thing that drew me to this. I really liked the way everything came together at the end. Uncomfortable reading at times, but I enjoyed it all the same.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, It is one of those books that you find yourself walking round the house reading, trying not to bump into things!

  19. Suejustbooks says:

    I just returned from a short visit to London and of course, bought books that were not yet released in the US yet. This was one of them and I’m very excited to read it, especially after your excellent review. I also picked up HELIOPOLIS, THE REHEARSAL, and WHITE WOMAN ON THE GREEN BICYCLE, all of which I’m very excited about!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sue, Fantastic selection of books! Heliopolis deserves much more attention than it has got so far. I hope that you enjoy your new books!

  20. I’m really looking forward to reading this one once I plow through the rest of the shortlist. It isn’t out in the U.S. yet, so I haven’t heard as much about it, but your review makes me want to pick it up now!

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, Sorry – not sure how I missed your comment :-( After nearly a year’s delay I’ll finally reply! I think it must have made its way across to you in the US now and I hope that you still decide it is worth trying at some point.

      1. It still hasn’t been published in the U.S., but I did buy it from BD. I plan to read it this summer once I finish this year’s Orange longlist!

  21. Kristie says:

    So glad that I read your entry on Hearts and Minds as it encouraged me to pick this book up. I adored this one! The characters were rich and the plot moved along at a fantastic pace.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kristie, It is really nice to know that you enjoyed it. Amanda Craig has an amazing talent for writing and I really wish she had a bigger audience. I hope you can persuade a few people to give her a try now :-)

      1. Kristie says:

        I’ll be grabbing another by her myself very soon! Your blog has been great for exposing me to more UK authors…and have been passing those ideas through to my C’dn friends.


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