03 September, 2014

Book Review: Hand Me Down World

From Goodreads: This is a story about a woman.
And the truck driver who mistook her for a prostitute.
The old man she robbed and the hunters who smuggled her across the border.
The woman whose name she stole, the wife who turned a blind eye.
This is the story of a mother searching for her child.

Thoughts: This book is part of my TBR Spring Clean Challenge. I've had this book for a couple of years but have put off reading it. The main reason for my reticence is my memory of reading Mr Pip, also by Lloyd Jones. While I enjoyed it, I remember a feeling of struggling with it. Once I re-read my review, it obvious the struggle came from thinking I was missing something. I might have to have another go at it.
As for Hand Me Down World - I needn't have worried. I tore through this book in just 3 days. I so desperately wanted to know what was going to happen. A woman sets out from Tunisia to find her child - the child whose father has taken and returned to Germany with. From her trip on a people smuggler boat to her trek from Sicily, through Italy, across the Swiss alps and finally to Berlin, Germany, her tale is told by the testimonies of those who helped her along the way. Once in Berlin, we get to read the longer testimonies of two who helped her there. This way of telling the tale give the reader only a glimpse of the woman who we finally come to know as Ines. All your impressions comes from third parties and as Ines is not very forth coming with details, you are left wondering about her thought processes and motivations. You know she is vulnerable, but she is also determined and, at times, incredibly frustrating! Finally, in the last third you get Ines point of view. Not surprisingly, her interpretation of events does not always correlate with what you have already been told and you are left to wonder who is telling the truth - or more to the point, which part of each testimony is true. In the end, I'm not sure I knew Ines any better for having read her story.
The use of testimonies to tell this story works. It sounds like it wouldn't and if I'd known about it before I 'd read the book I would have been very skeptical about it. However Lloyd pulls it off with brilliance. Everyone's voice sounds genuine. The spin they put on their part of the tale sounds plausible, as if the narrators truly believe every word they are saying. Ines' character stays consistent from one to another - she never lets her guard down. I truly enjoyed this book and will be looking for more of Jones' work.