Tag Archives: Chris Cleave

The Other Narrator

27 Jan

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave was a beautiful little read. I was addicted to the unique voice of its first narrator, Nigerian refugee Little Bee, especially as she ambitiously takes on “the Queen’s English” in hopes of improving her chances at being allowed to stay in the UK. One of my favourite parts:

The Queen and me, we are ready for the worst. In public, you will see us smiling and sometimes even laughing, but if you were a man who looked at us in a certain way we would both of us make sure we were dead before you could lay a single finger on our bodies. Me and the Queen of England, we would not give you the satisfaction.

But the chapters written in London journo Sarah’s voice were sometimes harshly pedestrian by comparison, especially her conversations with the “darling” features editor, Clarissa. A sample:

‘Clarissa, you’re wearing yesterday’s clothes.’

‘So would you be, if you’d met yesterday’s man.’

‘Oh, Clarissa. What am I going to do with you?’

‘Pay rise, strong coffee, paracetamol.’

When I read these parts, I was taken out of the spell cast by the rest of the story and dumped into any old Katherine Heigl/Kate Hudson/Jennifer Garner vehicle. The abrupt shift kind of reminded me of the movie Julie and Julia – being forced to flip between the awesome Julia and the whiny Julie, when I really just wanted more Meryl.

I should say that not all of Sarah’s sections had this effect on me – her descriptions of the collapse of her marriage and her struggle with doing the “right” thing felt real and not at all trivial. But the parts that did bug me were such a departure from the rest of the book that I started to wonder if the all-too-familiar non-problems of modern life were meant to make me feel uncomfortable, and sometimes even bored, after reading something like “the-men-came-and-they-burned-my-village-tied-my-girls-raped-my-girls-took-my-girls.”

Did anyone else notice this with Sarah’s chapters? Do you think this was deliberate?