Present Tense Book Review – Hand Me Down World

This is a book by Lloyd Jones, a Christmas present from Mrs. Monkeyshines, bought because Amazon recommended it after she bought me Nemesis, by Philip Roth for my birthday. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and it’s quite good rather than amazing.

In terms of subject matter, it reminds me of a book that I bought for my mum’s birthday, and which I subsequently read, because she really enjoyed it (the Monkeyshines clan do occasionally buy each other gifts which aren’t books, by the way). That book, The Other Hand, by Chris Cleave, was OK, but not particularly life-changing, as the rather pompous and prententious jacket blurb suggested. In that, the story of a young, female, African illegal immigrant in western europe was told in the first person; in Hand Me Down World there are multiple narrators, each given chapters of varying length, who relate their interactions with a young, female, African illegal immigrant in western europe. In this respect it is similar to another book I read last year, English Passengers, by Matthew Kneale. In that book, however, there were only a limited number of (recurring) narrators, and so it wasn’t too jarring when the viewpoint switched. In Hand Me Down World, most characters only have fleeting interactions with the African woman, so you find yourself jumping from one voice to the next. It’s certainly skilful writing, to be able to give each character a distinctive voice, but I will find it a bit wearing if this approach continues for the whole of the novel. It’s certainly an interesting approach for presenting a story, but I can imagine it feeling more disjointed as I read on.

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