Both The Other Hand and The Book Thief deal with a universal human condition: our inherent fear of outsiders and our readiness to endow an oppressed group with the cause of all of a society's ills and economic woes. This is what leads to evil. Of the 2 books, The Other Hand is much more powerful and influential. One would say it engages our empathy more easily - a necessary attribute for fiction. And whilst it is more current, amongst the selected review extracts at the front, someone compares it to Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark. Before reading the book, I thought that was a bit of a stretch, but afterwards, I thought not. Schindler's Ark I would rate as 'excellent'.
So I've managed to avoid talking about The Book Thief directly because it pales against better endeavours concerned with the same subject. I think it was an ambitious book that the author didn't quite pull off (says he who has written a one-hit-wonder that never sold). There was a scene towards the end of the book that completely unsuspended my suspension of disbelief (where she chases after Max in the parade of Jews going to Dachau) and I hate that. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are many readers who got very emotionally involved and loved it. I thought the book was very episodic without a strong narrative thread. The fact that everyone she ever loved, or knew, ended up dead (except the most likely contender) didn't provide a satisfactory resolution for me. The Other Hand has a tragic ending as well, but it's all the more forceful for that. Comparisons can't be helped on almost every front.
I might lend The Book Thief to someone (unlike Solar, which I wouldn't even give to a stranger) but I would tell them that it didn't work for me. The Other Hand I would recommend to anyone old enough to read it.
by Paul Mealing