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It’s just a hand me down world…

January 27, 2015

Many readers will know New Zealand author Lloyd Jones, if for no other reason than his excellent book ‘Mr Pip’ (winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize) which was later filmed starring British actor Hugh Laurie. Lloyd, brother of property magnate Bob Jones who is also a published author (though may I say, not in the same class), has written a dozen or so books. The one I am reviewing was published in 2010. It is quite different in plot, place and style from Mr Pip but it is every bit as well written and deserving of a large readership.

“Hand me down world” is the story of a young African woman in today’s world, working as a maid in a hotel on the coast of North Africa. She is made pregnant by a German born black man who kidnaps the baby boy when he is born, and takes him back to Berlin, leaving the mother bereft.

The plot unwinds as the mother is compelled to find her baby boy and in order to do so, has to travel by sea and then overland through Sicily, Italy, Switzerland and Austria to get to Germany. Her travels and experiences are told through the eyes of those from whom she seeks lifts and help. She starts out with no money, no identification, no passport and no linguistic skills other than English – but with a grim intent to find and repossess the child. Some people do help her, others take or try to take advantage of her, and she in turn does what she feels she must in order to succeed in her quest. Later in the story, it is retold by the mother herself and then we discover that what has gone before is only one version of the truth.

What happens in this extraordinary journey and how it reaches a conclusion, I leave for you to discover. Suffice to say it is a unique story, very well told and well worth reading. Lloyd Jones spent a year in Berlin, courtesy of Creative NZ and it was clearly a year well spent. Mr Pip was called an achingly beautiful story by one reviewer. Well Lloyd Jones has done it again  in “Hand me down world” without in any way repeating himself.

– Larry Gordon


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