Such Small Hands

Andrés Barba

Published: 3 August 2017
Printed Paper Cased, B Format
129x198mm, 112 pages
ISBN: 9781846276439

Other Editions


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Published: 1 March 2018
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 112 pages
ISBN: 9781846276750

Ebook Available


Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital. She has learned to say this flatly and without emotion, the way she says her name (Marina), her doll's name (also Marina) and her age (seven). Her parents were killed in a car crash and now she lives in the orphanage with the other little girls. But Marina is not like the other little girls.

In the curious, hyperreal, feverishly serious world of childhood, Marina and the girls play games of desire and warfare. The daily rituals of playtime, lunchtime and bedtime are charged with a horror; horror is licked by the dark flames of love. When Marina introduces the girls to Marina the Doll, she sets in motion a chain of events from which there can be no release.

With shades of Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and Mariana Enríquez, Such Small Hands is a beautifully controlled tour-de-force, a bedtime story to keep readers awake.

About the author

Image of Andrés Barba

Andrés Barba is a Spanish writer. He has worked as a teacher of Spanish to foreigners at Complutense University in Madrid and now gives writing workshops. He established his reputation with the novel Los hermanos de Katia (2001, made into a film by Mijke de Jong), the book of novellas La recta intención (2002), and the novels Ahora tocad música de baile (2004), Versiones de Teresa (2006, awarded the Torrente Ballester Prize), Las manos pequeñas (2008), Agosto, octubre (2010) and Muerte de un caballo (2010, awarded the Juan March Prize). In collaboration with Javier Montes, he received the Anagrama Essay Prize for La ceremonia del porno (2007). His writing has been translated into eight languages. More about the author


‘[A] very sinister tale... Not to be read before bedtime’



‘[This book] made me feel all the chaotic roiling emotion and imagination of my youth again. Such Small Hands is an extraordinary experience and it's so artfully done that I'm in awe of its brilliant construction... It's a brilliant way of describing how we create stories out of experiences and how we find our existence slotted within a narrative. No matter how earnestly we try to stick to facts and honesty, our memories are inevitably textured by the language that we turn them into... Ingenious’ Eric Anderson

Such Small Hands is a book of layered and intricate beauty, a chasm-like narrative of trauma that keeps deepening and darkening as I reflect on it. It is tender and heart-tearing, sinister and compassionate. It is also one of the most meticulous, vivid accounts of childhood I have ever read’ Megan Hunter

Such Small Hands is a magnificently chilling antidote to society's reverence for ideas of infantile innocence and purity... Lisa Dillman's translation is as evocative as a reader could wish for [and] Barba's grasp of the vertiginous balance between the real and the imaginary in the girls' play is absolute... Hatred and love, rage and desire, the violent and the erotic - everything becomes entangled... the path is set towards a shocking and bloody dénouement worthy of the most spine-tingling horror film’ Lucy Scholes

Such Small Hands pulls you back into the pagan woods of earliest childhood, that place you were always afraid you would never find your way out of. This slender book is full of magic, malice and troubling enchantmentColin Barrett

Such Small Hands transports us back to the strange, fraught landscape we lose forever on entering adulthood: one of magnified feelings, eerie fixations and blurred boundaries. A dark, deft trip to a zone where desire and frenzy meet’ Rob Doyle

[Barba] takes us through the looking glass into a consciousness bordering on psychosis, or the mindset of a child. There are hints of Something Wicked This Way Comes in this fairly bloodless Gothic horror... it's a novella about many things, among them trauma, loss and longing, but most of all about simply being a child. Lisa Dillman fluidly translates impeccable literary styleAlan Bett

‘Barba submerges the reader in a terrifying but irresistible reality... This is a chilling account of what can happen in the secret spaces of a young child's imagination’

‘Brilliant... I'd highly recommend it’ Sinead Gleeson

‘Chilling’ Anthony Gardner

‘Chilling, I am reminded of that quote from Elizabeth Bowen... 'No one can know the extent of the damage caused by young children whispering together,' Such Small Hands is more than just a scary story... This is so much worse’ Susan Hill, author

‘Chilling... Barba inhabits the minds of children with an exactitude that seems to me so uncanny as to be almost sinister... This is as effective a ghost story as any I have read, but lying behind the shocks is a meditation on language and its power to bind or loosen thought and behaviour... Barba's use of genre conventions is both affectionate and knowing [...], but he also interrogates the genre, querying the limits of what it means to be haunted and haunting, and of what most affects the reader... About language, wounding, wickedness: but it is also about how fleeting and how vulnerable is the state of childhood innocence’ Sarah Perry

‘Imagine the ominous foreboding of a Shirley Jackson story with the rich psychodrama of early Guillermo del Toro movies and you'll get somewhere close to this eerie novella... Barba conjures a world that strikes a chord with the reader's earliest memories, replicating the cognitive dissonance of childhood. It's haunting, poetic and utterly terrifyingKate Loftus-O'Brien

‘This brilliantly realised and sustained Spanish tale may have been inspired by actual events, specifically the grotesque murder in a Brazilian orphanage of a young girl by her peers. What is beyond doubt, however, is its ability to creep deep beneath the skin... It is an eerie, uncanny world, but then, as the novelist Edmund White observes in a glowing afterword: 'If we could suddenly enter the consciousness of a child, we would understand nothing’ Stephanie Cross

‘This slim novella packs a visceral punch... This is a spine-chilling story perfect for Halloween reading and the gorgeous (albeit creepy!) UK hardcover edition makes it a fabulous gift book’ Rabeea Saleem

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