Review: Such Small Hands

With thanks to Portobello Books comes a review of Andés Barba’s chilling ‘Such Small Hands’, his third book to be translated into English. Afterword by Edmund White.

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Such Small HandsTitle: Such Small Hands
Author: Andres Barba
Publisher: Portobello
Available: 3rd August 2017 (ooooh we got an advance copy, thanks Portobello)
Rating: 3/5*


It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything for review, and even longer since I’ve been so challenged by such a short book. Such Small Hands takes us by the hand and leads us into the strange life of Marina as she assimilates into the orphanage following a car accident in which “Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital”.

We are tugged along by that strange tiny pulling at reality Barba suffuses into the novel as the other girls in the orphanage look at the new, and therefore different, Marina. They see her odd behaviours and try to loathe her but are caught in a childish paradox of love and hatred. As the hivemind of the girls buzzes with curiosity, excitement, and fear, Marina’s mind is filled with nothing but a glassy-eyed repetition of  “my father died instantly, my mother in the hospital”. The fractious reality Barba creates then stems from the lack of individuality of the girls, the rigidity of their lives in the orphanage and the craving of children to find more to their small world.

Although the story is short, it is bursting with ideas on the nature of love, trauma, and how the one can impact the other in a style not altogether unlike Kafka’s The Trial (albeit far more readable and organised). Such Small Hands prods at us and our concepts of love and fear with tiny fingertips and slicing fingernails, making for a disturbing yet satisfying read.

-Moz

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