The Other Hand

Chris Cleave

The Other Hand
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The Other Hand

Chris Cleave

Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and Costa Novel of the Year, this international bestseller has become a reading group classic. We don’t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn’t. And it’s what happens afterwards that is most important. Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.


A war zone on an African beach may not be the best place to heal a wounded marriage. This sounds almost like a Nigerian proverb sprouted by Little Bee, the heroine in this involving novel, The Other Hand. Sarah’s the editor of a magazine that she’s outgrown. She’s mother to Charlie, a boy who won’t wear anything but a Batman costume. She’s wife to Andrew, who’s battling demons and depression. She’s mistress to Lawrence, the habit she cannot break, hence the wounded marriage. She’s also a lifesaver. The missing finger on her left hand is testament to that. It was sacrificed one horrific day on Ibeno Beach, Nigeria, in exchange for Little Bee’s life.

Two years later, the African girl appears in her Surrey backyard, holding Andrew’s tattered drivers licence on the day of his funeral. Is she a ghost? It’s the unfolding of events that make this story so brilliant. Little Bee’s observations of the English are hilarious and wise in equal parts. This is a novel of great drama and humour that links the domestic, sometimes frivolous life of the modern UK with the plight of its asylum seekers.

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