The Other Hand By Chris Cleave

‘Was it worth the hype?’ was the opening question to our first book club review of ‘The Other Hand’ by Chris Cleave. This question provoked a discussion on whether the blurb by the Publisher on the book’s cover mislead us into thinking that the ending would be somewhat different. Indeed many members thought that the ending was weak and even considered re-reading the last chapter in the hope that they had somehow missed something vital to the story line. One member however, concluded that the ending was fitting to the rest of the story and couldn’t see how it could have been written any different.

The significance of the money was raised, that is mentioned several times in the story. Members collated this to the wealth of the oil barons and the fact that Little Bee (the central character) contributed money to a show of power. Little Bee’s innocence was mentioned as key to the story, with many members feeling that it was more lack of life knowledge than innocence that makes her comment on such things as the Page Three girls or the fact that she calls the taxi driver a ‘cock’ thinking it was short for a cockerel. Her language used in those statements is basic, purely for her to explain the situations to the girls back home and is not necessarily how she would comment.

We then referred to the characters of Sarah and Lawrence. Members thought that Sarah expected too much of her husband, a few thought the character of Lawrence was indeed quite weak. However, others felt that here was a man who was broken by the fact that his wife was having an affair and the subsequent actions that followed and was, himself, a victim. A question was raised over whether members had less sympathy for Sarah after you discover her affair. Some considered her an insular character that made decisions in her life without the thought of how they would affect others. Certainly her actions in chopping off her finger was spur of the moment and she didn’t consider the consequences that may follow.

One of the main talking points was the subject of ‘Little Bee’ being an asylum seeker. The question was raised of whether we had a different opinion of asylum seekers as a whole after reading the book. This provoked an intense reaction from the group, some dismissing them altogether and others being more sensitive over the circumstances under which they claim refuge in a country.

‘Batman’ was also considered a vital element to the story. In particular, members thought that the part where he fell into his Father’s grave was particular harrowing and the fact he decides to go missing within the park, leads to the authorities being called in and sets a chain reaction of events that leads to the deportation of Little Bee.

Interestingly enough, most people said that the book cover would not have attracted them to pick up the book, especially the red hard backed version but most enjoyed the book and it certainly provoked a good discussion for our first review.

Further details you may find useful:-

http://www.chriscleave.com/little-bee/the-true-story-behind-my-new-novel/

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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