Hearts And Minds is the story of five Londoners whose lives interact. A divorced human-rights lawyer, a South African supply teacher, a Zimbabwean cab-driver, a Ukrainian teenager trafficked into prostitution, and an American PA escaping a failed relationship in her home country. But as well as being about the individual stories of its characters, it’s a novel about the great swirling mass of humanity that makes up the city of London.
It’s not an easy read. Unsparing in its gaze, it spells out all that is wrong with the city; but it is still essentially optimistic in its view of humanity. There are bad people, there are bad decisions and there are undesirable consequences; at the same time there is always hope because of the fundamental decency of so many ordinary people.
It’s a big novel, focusing on ideas held or half-held by Londoners, taking them to their logical conclusions, considering what the implications are for the identity of our capital city and its millions of inhabitants. Within the framework of an intricately-crafted plot that would not have disgraced a crime novel, Hearts And Minds interrogates notions of race, class, gender and social mobility but never in terms of pure theory; Amanda Craig is much more interested in how these ideas and our preconceptions about them impact upon our daily lives. It’s a brave, ambitious and powerful work of fiction and one that will speak to every modern city dweller.