Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spotlight on: Hearts and Minds

Ohhh, it's a busy week here at Chez Books and Cooks. Did you know my daughter is a performance artist? It's true. She's performing 5 times this week complete with hair, makeup, and costume in front of hundreds of people. That makes me chauffeur extraordinaire leaving me with little free time.

Back to the books. Once Amanda Craig's Hearts and Minds was longlisted for the Orange Prize I started seeing it around. And around. I'd read a couple of Craig's books in the past and remembered them as likable but not especially memorable. I thought this might be her Big Book, so I ordered it and began reading it approximately 3 minutes after it arrived. It's really something.

Hearts and Minds is a book about immigration in present day London. Craig focuses on 5 characters whose lives intertwine in various ways. British Born Polly is a human rights lawyer. Job is a taxi driver from Zimbabwe. Anna has arrived from the Ukraine to work as a chambermaid. Katie is an American, living on the cheap and working for a magazine. Ian is a teacher from South Africa, trying to figure out if this life is better than the one he left. Some of these people are legal, others are not. Some are being exploited and live in fear. They are all trying to make a better life for themselves yet the life they are living is not what any of them expected.

Hearts and Minds is not a happy book, in fact it's quite a heartbreaker, but it tells a very real story. While this book is set in London and feels very British, this story is taking place all over the world. These same characters could be in New York, Los Angeles, or even the Twin Cities. Craig tells her story boldly, sympathetically. She includes a body and a murder, thought this is not a murder mystery. She cleverly ends each chapter with a zinger, turning what could have been an ordinary book into a page turner. I thought it was excellent. Sadly, it didn't make the Orange shortlist and who knows if it will ever be published on this side of the pond. Either way, I encourage you to seek it out.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, that sounds like a remarkable story.

My son's 22 now so my days of driving him around are long past. Enjoy it while you can!

Danielle said...

This was one of the books on the list that appealed to me most and of course I had to order it right away! I have been feeling overwhelmed by books lately, though, so haven't started it yet, but this makes me want to do so when I go home later! I'm not sure I had even heard of this author before--but will start with this book!

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of this, but it looks fantastic! Immigration's obviously a big issue right now - this book looks thoughtful and interesting.

Staci said...

You sound very busy!!

This book is very interesting...I'm intrigued enough to see if I can get my hand on it!

Iliana said...

Ok, I'm intrigued. I think I'd probably like this one so I'll have to add it to my list.

Hope your daughter is have a great time with her performances!

Nan said...

Oh, I do remember the bustle of springtime recitals and concerts and softball and baseball. We used to live on jarred tomato sauce and spaghetti every night!

A lot of the British tv shows I rent from Netflix, and some of the books I read deal with the theme of this book.

Tara said...

Kathy, it was. I'm looking forward to driving kids around and listening in to their chatting!

Danielle, I'll be interested to see what you think of this!

jennysbooks, is is definitely both of those things - a very good read.

Staci, eek! Good luck!

Iliana, I'd love to know what you think of this. She had a ball last week!

Nan, ah yes, we are in the middle of it all!

Karen said...

I bought a copy of this last week so I am even more keen to read it after seeing your positive review!