A Hundred Hands - Dianne Noble - Book Cover

A Hundred Hands – Dianne Noble

A paedophilic husband induces Polly to escape to the town of Kolkata in India. The harsh reality of the children living on the streets changes Polly’s life.  


Polly’s life takes a devastating turn with pounding on the door: the police have come to arrest her husband for paedophilia. The Welsh village she grew up in turns into a hostile environment and Polly’s only way out is getting away. When Polly arrives in India little does she know her destiny lies in the mucky town of Kolkata, helping young children to survive the harsh reality. Opening her heart to the children enables Polly to follow her own path in life. 


The words of the policeman keep haunting Polly “Proud of that, are you, madam?” in reaction to Polly’s reassurance to her husband she was not responsible for reporting him to the police. She knew he watched those sickening videos and said nothing. Where the villagers point their accusing fingers Polly cannot stand it any longer: she needs to escape her house, no longer a home and decides to travel to India. Her best friend Amanda married an Indian and moved to his home country. India is a huge culture shock for Polly with its heat and dirt, the street children everywhere and the hellish bus rides. Staying at Amanda’s house has provided a kind of luxury but once Polly has moved on to the little town of Kolkata it’s back to basics. After her first (sleepless) night in Kolkata Polly meets two Englishmen who will radically change her life: Liam and Finlay.

Liam is a volunteer who is staying in India for a couple of months to teach Indian street children English; Finlay lives in Kolkata, having turned his house into a school and place to stay for about 25 young kids. Both men work with Indian children who are desperately in need of daily food and a place to stay, a shelter from the hardship so many other children in India endure. Where Liam has no choice but to send the children back on the streets at the end of every day, Finlay ensures the children living with him have a safe environment for as long as they are with him. His goal is to teach them a skill and to find them a good place to work when they are grown-up. Polly visits them both and realizes – this is what she wants, to educate the young children and to teach them English. Is it her way of making amends? Of giving it all for the Indian children living in such heartbreaking circumstances?

What follows is a beautiful tale of Polly’s struggle to find a life in Kolkata for as long as her visa allows: the hardship of dealing with electricity, more often off than on, a shower that barely works and the constant heat and daily disillusions of only being able to do so much. It is never enough what Polly can do but imagine what it is for the children she’s grown to love? They have no other life to go back to and are destined to stay n India. The children, both at Liam’s school and Finlay’s house are so pleased to see Polly, they call her Aunty and show their affection by hugging her whenever they can. It is impossible not to be swept away by the love the children show and their eagerness to learn, to please her. She divides her attention as evenly as possible, half of the week with the kids in Liam’s school and the other with the children in Finlay’s house.

Is it just the children that are keeping Polly in Kolkata, she did want to travel through India, or is there more? Is there something or someone else that has captured her heart like Finlay perhaps? He is a bit older than she is but he awakens something in Polly she yearns to explore, to find out if there are feelings between them. Meanwhile, Polly’s dedication to the children is affecting her health, but she will not give up. She must stay realistic, there is only so much anyone can do, can contribute to the children’s lives in India – you simply cannot save all as hard as you might try. But this “truly filthy place” is where Polly feels at home, where she is needed. Follow Polly’s adventurous life in Kolkata, becoming a loved teacher to the children, her friendship with Amanda and how the choices Polly makes influence her family and friends, defines and shapes her future.

My Thoughts

‘A Hundred Hands’ is the touching story of Polly whose husband is in jail for paedophilia, of Amanda, Polly’s best friend, the one she grew up with, married to an Indian man, of the loving relationship Polly has with her grandmother, who raised her. But there is more: we, the readers are experiencing how it is to live in a small town in India, deprived of all the luxuries we regard as normal. No wonder when you realize that Dianne Noble herself was a volunteer in Kolkata once, teaching street children English, just like her protagonist Polly. For the children, life is a daily struggle and still, they show a profound optimism, welcoming Polly (Aunty) in their hearts.

I found the story heartbreaking, the life in India very well described. You can see how Polly is gritting her teeth and experience her agony. Is it because of her husband that Polly feels the need to embrace the opportunity to lighten up the children’s lives? Do a hundred hands refer to the volunteers and people who care, who want to make a difference for the children growing up in such circumstances? Or could it be a hundred hands reaching out toward every volunteer every day for the little help there is to give? I loved reading this novel, Dianne Noble painted such a vivid picture that I could almost smell the food and feel the overwhelming heat.

About the Author

Dianne Noble Author Image

Dianne Noble is one of those people for whom reading is as essential as breathing: she became a reader before she could walk, she amassed a vocabulary during her childhood years.  Dianne Noble was born into a service family and found herself, only seven years old, sailing to Singapore, her teen years she spent in Cyprus; her marriage then took her to a life on the Arabian Gulf. The following years consisted of being a single parent with an employment history ranging from the British Embassy in Bahrain to a goods picker, a radio presenter and a café proprietor. All of this and the journals she writes when travelling provided her with inspiration for the novels she started writing after her retirement. Her first novel is Outcast (March 2016) and both the books are set in India and are based on the diaries she kept when doing voluntary work teaching English to street children in Kolkata. 

Book Info

 Ebook  Kindle Ed. 2026 KB; print size 280 pages
 Publisher   Tirgearr Publishing (2 Nov. 2016)
 Language   English
 Format: Nook Book   BN ID:2940153758657; 719 KB

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