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Hearts and Minds (2009)

por Amanda Craig

MiembrosReseñasPopularidadValoración promediaMenciones
18912111,675 (4.04)77
Rich or poor, five people, seemingly very different, find their lives in the capital connected in undreamed-of ways. There is Job, the illegal mini-cab driver whose wife in Zimbabwe no longer answers his letters; Ian, the idealistic supply teacher in exile from South Africa; Katie from New York, jilted and miserable as a dogsbody at a political magazine, and fifteen-year-old Anna, trafficked into sexual slavery. Polly Noble, an overworked human rights lawyer, knows better than most how easy it is to fall through the cracks into the abyss. Yet when her au pair, Iryna, disappears, Polly's own needs and beliefs drag her family into a world of danger, deceit and terror. Riveting, humane, engaging, HEARTS AND MINDS is a novel that is both entertaining and prepared to ask the most serious questions about the way we live.… (más)
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    A Walk Across the Sun por Corban Addison (bergs47)
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    Con el corazon en la mano por Chris Cleave (dsc73277)
    dsc73277: "Hearts and Minds" and "Little Bee" have been two of the most compelling books I have read this year. Both deal sympathetically with the experience of migrants to Britain. At times they make for difficult reading, reminding one as they do of how difficult some people's lives are, however, ultimately they are not devoid of hope.… (más)
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Quite simply, this is an extraordinary novel, although sadly I think it is beyond my powers to describe it adequately without making it sound too fanciful. Amanda Craig captures the multi-tiered aspects of London society as it edges toward the almost catastrophic financial downturn that arose from the ‘credit crunch’ of 2008.

The story revolves around five principal characters and the intricate way in which they all gradually become involved with each other. We meet Polly, a divorcee and single mother whose work as a human rights lawyer takes up most of her waking hours, leaving her permanently exhausted and struggling to balance the demands of family life. As the novel opens, her plight becomes even more stressful as Iryna, the Russian au pair who had been so fundamental to the stability of her household, disappears.

Meanwhile Job is an illegal immigrant who fled poverty, oppression and torture in Zimbabwe. Having managed to garner enough money to secure a flight to London, he is now straining to balance two draining jobs, switching between working as a minicab driver and handwashing smart cars at a dubious establishment in the hinterland of King’s Cross. Between these two posts he manages to scrape enough money to pay his rent for a dreadful bedsit, and also to send a small sum each month back home to his wife in Zimbabwe. It is now more than six months since he received any word from his wife, and he is no longer confident that she is even still alive.

Ian Bredin is a South African, working as a teacher at an inner London comprehensive school, still facing another two terms before he can secure his ‘Qualified Teacher’ status. The school is underfunded, and nearly all of the pupils are disaffected: bullying is rife, and religious divides within the diverse, multicultural school population are already becoming prevalent. Despite his best intentions, Ian finds that he spends most of his time merely preventing fights from breaking out in the classroom, and he knows that he never manages actually to teach his pupils anything.

Katie is from New England, and decamps to London following a failed relationship with a man from an immensely wealthy family, but who turned out, despite a charming carapace, to be boorish beyond measure. Now in London, Katie finds herself struggling to survive in what seems a very lonely city. She works as assistant (almost skivvy) to the editor of the twenty-first century iteration of The Rambler, the weekly journal that in former times had been journalistic home to the likes of Dr Johnson, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

Anna is a fifteen year old Lithuanian girl who leaps at the opportunity to escape from what she fears will be a life of utter drudgery. Her hopes of a new life soar when a young woman who had been a couple of years ahead of her at school returns from London, clad in marvellous chic clothes and make up, eager to recruit other girls to come and join her there, working as waitresses or chambermaid. Anna cannot be dissuaded from throwing her lot in, only to find that she has been trafficked, and is pitched into a life of what seems like unremitting Hell.

All five of them will find their stories intersecting in the most shattering way. Exquisitely plotted, the author never once lets the string of coincidences impair the underlying plausibility of the story, and all of the characters are beautifully drawn.

Amanda Craig also manages to deliver blistering attacks on the plights of asylum seekers, and the manner in which the underclass become almost invisible to the bulk of the population though a communal wave of denial, though she achieves this without ever seeming to proselytise. All in all this is an enchanting novel, and a great way to start a new year of reading. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jan 3, 2020 |
By coincidence, I read this book immediately after reading Linda Grant's "We Had It So Good", which in many ways covered similar territory: 21st century London impacted by recent and current terrorism. I thought Grant's work put this novel by Amanda Craig very much in the shade. Especially by comparison, Craig's plot seems to be rather artificially constructed. We can see that the lives of these people are going to intersect and I felt as I read on that I was listening to someone telling a laborious story whose ending I was pretty sure I knew. The characters tended to be somewhat caricatures rather than real people - even down to their names (can we guess that Polly Noble is a human rights lawyer?). I don't want to sound too negative because there was in fact a certain appeal in the way that through most of the book Craig was careful to avoid demonising one group and attempted to accurately portray the complexity of the social situation. And many readers will find the the triumph of good over evil to be satisfying, even if it is unrealistic. ( )
  oldblack | Jun 15, 2017 |
Amanda Craig writes a compelling tale about the interleaved lives of contemporary Londoners most of whom are on the margins and in the process shows the underbelly of modern Britain. That makes it sound immensely depressing but in fact it is heart-warming and enjoyable ( )
  jbennett | May 18, 2016 |
This is a very enjoyable book set in London it follows 5 people with very loose connections their stories overlap.
Characters are kind of believable and they all have different reasons for being in London.
Don't want to give the story away but this is a jolly good book. ( )
  Daftboy1 | Dec 7, 2015 |
I'm undecided by this. At one level, it's a set of intermingled London lives. On another, it's a set of stock characters who never really manage to transcend their roles. There are 5 main narrators, Anna (A Ukrainian girl who is traffic and becomes a prostitute), Job (a black Zimbabwean teacher), Ian (A white South African teacher), Katy (American) and Polly, the sole resident (second generation jewish). They all intermingle more than change might suggest would actually happen. There are a number of events tht seem to be too staged to be real or believable. Despite that, it works as a though provoking piece of work.
So I'm torn, a strange mixture of excellent and inventive along side the cardboard cut outs and stage set events. ( )
  Helenliz | Nov 3, 2015 |
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To my father
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At night, even in these dead months of the year, the city is never wholly dark.
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Rich or poor, five people, seemingly very different, find their lives in the capital connected in undreamed-of ways. There is Job, the illegal mini-cab driver whose wife in Zimbabwe no longer answers his letters; Ian, the idealistic supply teacher in exile from South Africa; Katie from New York, jilted and miserable as a dogsbody at a political magazine, and fifteen-year-old Anna, trafficked into sexual slavery. Polly Noble, an overworked human rights lawyer, knows better than most how easy it is to fall through the cracks into the abyss. Yet when her au pair, Iryna, disappears, Polly's own needs and beliefs drag her family into a world of danger, deceit and terror. Riveting, humane, engaging, HEARTS AND MINDS is a novel that is both entertaining and prepared to ask the most serious questions about the way we live.

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