I have read all of Chris Cleave's books but I'm afraid this was the one I enjoyed the least. The rest of my book group thoroughly enjoyed it and one member came armed with all the wonderful quotes that had appealed to her, but it didn't excite me.
I have procrastinated with this review because I'm not exactly sure what it was about the book that dropped it to three (and a half) stars. A lot happens, and I'm wondering if I found the transitions a bit chunky. The flow of a book is always very important to me. I also related to some of the characters more than others, which could have affected my response.
We were lucky to meet Chris Cleave at our Literary festival and it was fascinating to hear how he had drawn from his grandfather's experiences during WWII, when he was stationed in Malta, some of which he used in the narrative.
I loved the vibrant character of Mary; she is from a wealthy family but throws herself into the war effort. She had fancied herself as a spy but takes on the role of teacher with enthusiasm. Her students end up being the children rejected from the country evacuations - children with disabilities and colour.
The two other main characters were her boss, Tom, an administrator in education, and his artistic friend, Alistair. Neither of these characters interested me as much as Mary, but both of them play an important part in her life.
There is also a side story around one of Mary's pupils, Zach, a black boy whose father is a minstrel in the Minstrel Show in London. Zach is one of the children rejected from the countryside, probably dyslexic, and Mary develops a special fondness for him.
Judging from the reactions of my friends I would highly recommend this book, don't take any notice of my views, I was definitely in the minority :)
Little Bee (The Other Hand) - 4 stars
Incendiary - 5 stars
Gold - 4 stars