The Other Hand by Chris Cleave came to me via Lovely Mum. I would never have bought it myself because the cover is generic and uninspiring and the blurb, which earned a lot of sneers in the publishing world when it came out, starts off by saying “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”. Gimmicky or what?
Thank god Lovely Mum didn’t have similar qualms, because this book is truly special. It is the story of two women: one a Nigerian refugee, one a magazine editor from Surrey. I won’t tell you how their worlds collide – I know, I know, I’m joining forces with the dastardly blurb-writers – but I can’t spoil it. I thought I would insist on it but I find that I can’t.
Instead, I will just tell you to buy the book. Buy it now. It will swallow you up as soon as you begin. You will find yourself impatiently awaiting your journey home. You will lie awake at night thinking about the women. Your eyes will fill with tears at times. You won’t care that you’re in public. You will smirk to yourself at the antics of the five-year-old boy we must call Batman. You will wish you had a pen to mark out the words you never want to forget.
It is hilarious, it is horrifying, it is desperately, desperately sad. It is still haunting me. It is peerless. It opens a window into a dark world whose depths you would otherwise struggle to imagine. It is meticulously researched and lovingly crafted and it will make you itch to do something in the way that even the best and saddest books rarely do.
Buy it. Buy it. Buy it! I won’t tell you again. I haven’t read anything remotely as wonderful as The Other Hand for years, if ever.