Title: Such Small Hands
Author: Andrés Barba
Translator: Lisa Dillman
Publisher: Portobello Books
‘Such Small Hands’ is a chilling account of the dreadful aspects of childhood that lie hidden beneath the innocence of children. It is a novella based on a real life incident that took place in an orphanage in Brazil, in 1960. It was originally published in 2008 in Spanish as Las manos pequeñas. And this August, the horror is brought back in another language, by Portobello Books.
Let us meet Marina
Marina is a 7 year old girl, who has recently lost her parents in a car accident. Having no one to look after her, she is sent to an orphanage. Before moving to the orphanage from the hospital, she is given a doll by her psychologist. The doll’s name is also Marina. It is a doll whose presence makes the atmosphere surreal.
Upon Marina’s arrival in the orphan house, she appears as a mysterious girl, to the girls of the orphanage. They don’t like her for her silence, for her beauty, for her cold behaviour and also for her doll, Marina. Yet they find themselves drawn towards her. Marina also wants to become the centre of attraction.
She has different things to talk about than the girls because she was not always an orphan. She has seen the world & even had a family. Moreover, she has a doll. Every little thing that Marina does or says has an impact on the girls. And Marina, too, knows how to create it. Each word that she utters is full of suspense. One day, she tells them about a game:
“Tonight we’re going to play a game,” she said.
“What game, Marina?”
“Just a game I know.”
“How do you play?”
“I’ll tell you tonight.”
“Can’t you tell us now?”
This brief conversation fills all the girls with anxiety. When the time comes, they all gather around Marina. And Marina tells them about the game- a game in which a girl is made a doll for the night, and others play with her. They continue with this game that takes place in the dark hours. Girls get to play with the doll & Marina gets to do whatever she wants to.
One fateful night, Marina insists on becoming the doll. This is the night, when girls get to do whatever they want to– whatever that pleases them. And this the night that brings the horror alive. …
I finished this book in one sitting, however, I’m not the kind of person who finishes books in a single sitting. The opening lines pulled me inside the book. It just felt like the action was taking place, right in front of my eyes. The author has to be commended for presenting things in such a manner.
The child psychology has been brought forward very well. Marina never fails to amuse us & equally amusing are the girls of the orphan house. Their thoughts are given proper shape by the application of Greek Chorus. The Point of view keeps shifting from Marina to the group of girls, who are all the same.
The translator has also done her job well. I could feel a creepiness while reading this book. The mystery and the suspense elements enhance our reading experience. Reading about Marina was the best part for me. She talks nonsense, like children sometimes do. But I was fascinated by her instead of being irritated.
The climax is something that leaves us in awe. We keep wondering how such small hands can be so sinister. The climax reminded me of ‘The Lord of Flies’, but the feeling that this one provides is unforgettable. I enjoyed reading this book & I think most readers will like it. It offers something new & different, and doesn’t take much time.
My Rating: **** (4/5)
What do you think about this book? Did you like the synopsis of the book? Do you like Marina? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.
*I received a copy from the Publisher in exchange for a review. Views expressed are entirely personal & unbiased.*