A Hundred Hands by Dianne Noble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Hundred Hands is a contemporary novel set in Kolkata, India. When Polly’s husband in England is jailed as a paedophile, she can’t face the accusing looks from her local community and runs away to India. After visiting her school friend in Bhubaneswar, Polly travels to Kolkata, thinking that she will do some travelling, but she meets first Liam and then Finlay and her plans change.
Liam is a church aid worker and runs a small school for children, who come each day for free food and lessons. Finlay runs a school too, but he provides a place for the children to sleep too. Polly is drawn to help these children, by a sense of guilt over her husband. Splitting her time between the two schools, Polly teaches English six days a week.
Living conditions are terrible, fumes, poverty, filth, the street kids often feral and they fight for any hugs and attention. Constant smoke and toxic fumes give Polly a chest infection and after a fall out with Finlay she escapes to Amanda for rest and recuperation.
When her six month visa draws to an end Polly is reluctant to leave until a call from home about her Gran has her rushing to her aid, but back in England, Polly can’t settle. The local community now have a change of heart and help raise money and funds for clothes and books for the children back in India and soon Polly is heading back where she feels she belongs.
The author works really hard to fill the reader with the sights, sounds, smells and experiences of the chaos, poverty and ways of life in India. You can almost smell the noxious gases, see the scuttling cockroaches and feel the humidity and dust. A good book to get a real feel for Indian life.
When Polly’s husband is jailed for paedophilia, she flees the village where her grandmother raised her and travels to India where she stays with her friend, Amanda.
Polly is appalled by the poverty, and what her husband had done, and her guilt drives her to help the street children of Kolkata. It’s while working she meets other volunteers, Liam and Finlay. Her days are divided between teaching the children and helping with their health needs. But when Liam’s successor refuses to let Polly continue working, she’s devastated to think the children will feel she’s abandoned them.
After a health scare of her own, she discovers her friend, Amanda, is pregnant. Amanda leaves India to have her child. At this time Polly and Finlay fall in love and work together helping the children. Tragedy strikes when one child is found beaten and another dead. Polly feels history repeating itself when Finlay becomes emotionally attached to a young girl.
Can Polly recover from her broken heart and continue to help the children, or will she give up and return home?
About the author
She has always written, editing the school magazine at an early age, and over the years short stories and letters to magazines were published, but it was only on retirement that her novel Outcast was finished and accepted by Tirgearr. Another book, A Hundred Hands Outstretched, also based in India, is being edited and she is halfway through a third novel, set in Egypt. Her writing is atmospheric, steeped in the smells, sights and sounds of exotic locations.
She lives – when not travelling – in a small, Leicestershire village. Her favourite destinations – so far – have been India and Russia, with Guatemala a close third.
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