1,824 of 1,850 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For heaven's sake ignore the blurb!
Honestly I don't know what people are thinking when they market books anymore. The blurb on this book would have you believe that it's not only a laugh riot -- except for the beach scene which is "horrific" -- but that it's so remarkably written and in some way so easy to spoil that it all but swears the reader to a code of silence. And in fact, it's none of those...
Published on May 13, 2009 by Tracy Rowan
96 of 108 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed over Little Bee
I wanted to like Little Bee. The reviews for it are exceptional. Book List starred it, Amazon named it among their "February Best of the Month" picks, O Magazine fondly mentions it. I mean come on, Library Journal labels it "the next Kite Runner" for goodness sakes! I couldn't wait to be swept away. And I was... for the first couple of...
Published on September 4, 2010 by Mrs. Librarian
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1,824 of 1,850 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For heaven's sake ignore the blurb!,
Briefly, "Little Bee" is about a young Nigerian refugee whose very existence changes the lives of a group of English citizens in dramatic ways. It's a good story and well-written but it would be silly of me to say that I don't want to tell you more because I don't want to spoil it for you. That would feel like me saying "I have NO idea what this is about."
It's about sadness. Really. It's not funny, except perhaps in small details where you might find yourself smiling ruefully. It's a sad book filled with sad and often thoughtless people. It's about how we cover our sadness with layers of so-called civilization, wrap our fears in popular culture, and never ever have the opportunity to face any of it and learn to rise above. Little Bee knows how to rise above. She's known how to do it her whole life because there's nowhere to hide in her country. Poverty, abuse and death are common where she is from, and if you don't want them to destroy you, they must be transcended.
I read the first two chapters just waiting for the comedy to begin. I waited for the beach scene with a measure of anxiety. I waited for some enormous surprise which I would long to tell others, but would keep to myself out of a sense of reader's decency. And each time, I found the truth to be something quite different. I'm actually happy about that because, for me at least, it means I was reading a book that might not be dismissed in a year or even a month as some pop cultural flash. It's a book which should make you think about the world and your place in it, and about what we owe to one another as human beings on this increasingly small, spinning globe.
I found it profoundly moving.
348 of 372 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Happened on the Beach?!,
Cleave's skillful pace brings us along in measured doses to the horrible thing that happened on a beach in Nigeria. What do a 4-year old boy who thinks he's Batman, his widowed, 9-fingered, mother Sarah, and his anguished father, have to do with Little Bee? Not only are we propelled to read what happened on that beach...we are compelled to know what will happen next.
Alternating voices of Little Bee and Sarah circle around the beach story. This is great storytelling; skillful foreshadowing, the careful scattering of clues, building suspense and dread.
Little Bee's plight overlays a rich and disturbing subtext of broader issues such as the unfathomable abyss between first and third world countries, the dark politics of oil, the labyrinthine plight of refugees and insight into UK detention centers.
Cleave has given us a beautifully written, witty, heartbreaking, evocative, suspenseful and horrific novel.
203 of 216 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Hand,
The story unfolds quietly giving you snapshots into the lives of the different characters but without letting you in on the full plot. Some characters you barely get to admire before you leave behind as Little Bee moves on, others develop as the story goes (Sarah, for instance).
I found both the premise and the characters to be engaging and am somewhat surprised by some negative reviews melting the story down to a UK/Nigeria Colonial War sort or moral. If that is all you take from this book then you have missed it, entirely. You've missed Sarah and her son, you've missed Yevette from Jamaica and the girl with no name... and you've certainly missed Little Bee.
Again, fantastic book that I recommend to anyone looking for well-crafted prose with a personality.
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars buyer beware!,
This review is from: The Other Hand (Paperback)I ordered this title after reading "Little Bee" because I wanted more books by the author, Chris Cleave . Imagine my surprise to discover this book is the Great Brittan's title for the same novel!?!?!?! I would highly recommend either title to anyone who enjoys a great read. However, beware that they are the same book with different titles and jackets. No need to spend money on both!
96 of 108 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed over Little Bee,
This review is from: Little Bee: A Novel (Paperback)Spoiler Alert...
I wanted to like Little Bee. The reviews for it are exceptional. Book List starred it, Amazon named it among their "February Best of the Month" picks, O Magazine fondly mentions it. I mean come on, Library Journal labels it "the next Kite Runner" for goodness sakes! I couldn't wait to be swept away. And I was... for the first couple of chapters. Little Bee's character came on very strong and distinct. I felt like I could pick her out of a crowd and guess what she was thinking. But I gradually started rolling my eyes and questioning plot details and characterization.
For example, Sarah's mom and sister are briefly mentioned; they come to her house after the funeral, but she begs them to leave her alone. There's no mention of their reaction to the fact that there is suddenly a Nigerian girl living at her house. ???
Also, according to the timeline description it seems that Charlie begins wearing the Batman costume before his father passes. It would make more sense if he began wearing it after the passing based on his reasons for wearing it. ???
And seriously, the cops caught Little Bee because she was at the scene of Charlie's near disappearance? Seriously?
Sarah's relationship with Lawrence is odd, Charlie draws conclusions unbelieving for a four year old, and the ending is rushed and unmoving. There's just this hokey feel to it that I couldn't get past.
This is the first time ever for me that I could tell that the author was not the same sex as his main characters, more so when it came to Sarah rather than Little Bee. The way Sarah thinks, the things she says, her observations, and even her interactions with her son just don't make sense. It is clear that Cleave failed to unearth his female voice.
Speaking of voice, Little Bee's chapters were much more convincing and enjoyable than Sarah's. The entire book written from Little Bee's point of view would have probably been a much better read.
I'm not giving this book only 1 star because it was too sad, or too graphic, or too haunting. It just fell flat. It wasn't convincing. All the ends didn't meet nor were all the i's dotted, t's crossed. It just didn't do it for me, and it is most certainly NOT the next Kite Runner. Good grief, it doesn't even compare. [close]
226 of 261 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Insensitive, Insulting and Inconsistent,
"We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something , so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again. The story starts there. Once you have read it you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how it unfolds."
These publishers knew what they were doing, as it is unlikely that I am the only person who purchased this novel because of the lure of this mysterious description. Unfortunately, the novel fell short of being at all special or magical. In fact, upon discovery of the true subject of this novel, I now reflect and find this description to be incredibly insensitive to the issues relevant to oil and conflict, and those of asylum seeking refugees. It is a mockery made of the stories of the 42 million refugees and internally displaced people living across the globe. This, however, is not the least of Chris Cleave's problems contained within the pages of his novel.
Cleave is very strategic in the initial 100 pages of his novel. He repeatedly refers to a life-changing event, one that each character can neither forget nor recover from, but does not disclose any details of the actual event; only that it took place on a beach in Nigeria. Because of the reader's eagerness to discover what it was that happened on the beach, and how it was that these characters became connected, his poor writing style and weak character development goes largely unnoticed. It is once the beach scene is revealed, and the pages are turned a little slower, that one can begin to dissect Cleave's poor narrative.
His characters are absolutely inconsistent and unbelievable, with no exceptions. At times, Cleave portrays Little Bee as a confused Nigerian village girl who knows not of Western technology, and then later she is a young girl in Nigeria dreaming of refrigerators and washing machines. In one chapter, Little Bee, never having seen a telephone before - and in fact at one point making conjectures as to how "voice transmission" between people works - is able to almost effortlessly delete a contact number on Sarah's cell phone when the phone is placed in her hand. Later however, she describes getting on a train for the first time and figuring out where to sit to be a difficult task. At times her transition into life in the UK is made to seem easy, which is another item with which I take great issue. Cleave has clearly not done his research on the settlement and immigration experience.
The character description of Sarah is similarly conflicting and uneven in a number of respects. For example, Cleave contradicts himself often when describing her feelings for her husband versus her lover. On one page, she says there was a time her husband Andrew could make her "forget one third of the earth" as the ocean goes unnoticed on their honeymoon. Then on another page, she says that she feels for Lawrence in a way that she has never before felt for Andrew and suggests that there was never any love between her and her husband. Similarly, she invites, or rather insists, that Little Bee stay with her but Little Bee hesitates. Then a few pages later, when Little Bee accepts Sarah's offer and suggests moving in with her, she is taken aback, and it is as though this suggestion comes as a surprise.
Cleave's development of each character and of the plot is just plain weak. As the novel carries on, the dialogue becomes worse and worse, and it seems that Cleave does not know where to end this story (though in my opinion, it should have ended much sooner than it did). I have not and will not be recommending this book to anyone and it is incredibly disappointing that the book critics of today are hailing this piece of "literature" and comparing the author to the likes of Ian McEwan and Khaled Hosseini.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, unrealistic book,
This review is from: Little Bee: A Novel (Paperback)(Spoiler alert: I discuss the more ridiculous aspects of the plot and characters.) The over-the-top back cover hype made me pick up this book in an airport kiosk. Shame on me for wasting my money. This is a dreadful and unrealistic book which I plodded through because of a few shining moments. If Chris Cleave had managed to tell a tale in Little Bee's voice without a soap opera backdrop, he might have had me. He created a wise and funny character and set her on an interesting journey in her native land of Nigeria. But he ruined it the moment he introduced Sarah, Andrew, and Lawrence, three English yuppies whose moral compasses couldn't find their true north to save their lives. Nothing about these characters is believeable or compelling. What kind of woman allows their lover to take up residence with her and her child the day after she buries her husband? What kind of man is driven as a journalist to tell a story of the rape and murder of Nigerian villagers, yet kills himself because he thinks he see the ghost of one? What kind of mother would take her 4 year old child to Nigeria convinced he will be safe, when she herself was the victim of a horrific encounter with mercenaries just two year prior?
This book swings wildly from lovely language and imagery to utter trash. I don't know how a writer could be so all over the place. I will not be reading any more Chris Cleave books.
97 of 110 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Little Bee = Big Disappointment,
This review is from: Little Bee: A Novel (Paperback)Upon reflection of this little book, there is just a lot wrong here. This saddens me quite a bit because I was really looking forward to this novel. I had read a lot of rave reviews (alas, I wish that I had taken the time to read some of the negative ones too, since they seem to cover everything that I am feeling myself) and so I was anxious to get my hands on this book. In fact, I missed it when it was a Vine offer, and so it's been that long that I've been anticipating its many `secrets'. I think is probably a good place to start; the `secrets'. No, I won't `reveal' them, but I will let you know that this book (and the marketing campaign surrounding it) made way too much fuss over what happened on that beach. The whole "we don't want to spoil this for you" message creates hype that this book just cannot deliver on. In fact, when the atrocities took place (yes they are brutal but no where near what I was expecting) I was left scratching my head wondering why this was so `hush, hush'.
But, the underwhelming `secret' is far from the books worst quality.
Logically, this book doesn't make sense. In fact, a large portion of the books credibility is lost when the secret itself is revealed, and that is because it just doesn't make any sense. Like I said, I'm not going to give anything away, but the books treatment of the `villains' in that sequence defy logic. In fact, the entire sequence makes no sense if we are to believe that those men are truly ruthless (as they are depicted).
Another huge issue I have with this book is the characters involved. No one is likable or even remotely believable outside of Andrew, and he's dead. In flashbacks and through conversations we come to know him, and he is the only person in the entirety of the novel that seems remotely real. Sarah is a strange woman who comes off completely unsympathetic due to some odd choices (inviting Lawrence to stay the night with her or even attempting to carry on her affair so soon after her husbands death is just preposterous and off-putting). Lawrence is a creep beyond creeps who doesn't even have a veneer of charm to cover over his abrasive selfishness. Little Bee herself is almost too saccharine to be believable, and the way that Cleave writes her character seems clichéd and generic. He doesn't understand her himself, and so she comes off very fake to the reader.
And that brings me to his writing style, which just infuriates me. Talk about overworked and underdeveloped. The novel spends far too much time detailing unimportant things (we only need to two examples of your suicide plans to get the point...and entire page is unnecessary) and far too little time defining well rounded characters. The conversations seem stilted and uninspired. I have a gigantic problem with the chapter that introduces us to Sarah and Lawrence's affair too. The way that entire scenario was crafted was just terrible. The scene made no sense and seemed cheap.
That is not how affairs are born, you know, unless you're in high school.
Like I said, there is just a LOT of wrong here. The ending makes no sense (seriously, WHO would do that) and because of Cleave's need to create something emotionally stirring (that must be why he threw in the drama) we lose any real poignancy he could have crafted on the novels outset. Far too much time and effort was dedicated to Lawrence (a character who needed to be dropped from the story since all he did was muck it up) and so we lost what made this concept special. Cleave needs to understand that less is more at times. I am all for a big reveal; all for a secret that leaves shock on the face of the reader, but not at the expense of honesty.
Nothing about `Little Bee' is honest.
63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making a beautiful life in a broken world,
The plot and the various situations of the book are absolutely compelling. The beach scene is every bit as horrifying as the book-jacket copy hints that it will be. The work & marriage struggles that plague Sarah and her husband are mundane but not overplayed. I did find the character of Charlie/Batman to be a little bit gimmicky. It rang true enough, but his importance to the plot at the end of the book left me cold.
The end of the book is the reason why I'm not giving the book five stars. Charlie/Batman gets pulled out TWICE as the reason why Little Bee is willing to sacrifice herself. Once would have been fine; twice seems like the author couldn't come up with anything else. I also felt that too much stuff near the end seemed "Hollywood," such as what happens on Little Bee's plane ride. The rest of the book was so much better than formulaic devices such as giving everything up so a child can have a chance, and surprise appearances at the airport.
However, as disappointed as I was with the ending, the fact remains, LITTLE BEE is a beautifully written, heart-rending book. It will make you want to do something about the Little Bees of the world. It will open your eyes to joys that may be right in front of you, that you have forgotten to appreciate. It will make you realize how trapped and compromised so many of us are. But life is beautiful anyway. Life is worth it anyway. That is the message of LITTLE BEE.
58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't Believe The Buzz,
The title character, a Nigerian refugee in England, is a captivating and calmly insightful voice. Not to mention pretty amusing. In her attempt to find safety, she ends up at the door of Sarah, the editor of a fluffy women's magazine. Recently widowed, Sarah and her late husband Andrew have a histor with Little Bee that throws into a tailspin Sarah's normal notions of compassion and charity. Along for the ride is Sarah's four year old son, Charlie, a boy with a penchant for Batman. The two women, Sarah and Little Bee, spend most of the book trying to come to terms with and understand each other.
By the end of part four, I was sick and tired of it. What happens in part four? Well, if you've read the product description here or on the book or elsewhere, you'll know that there is mention of a tantalizingly horrific African beach scene. Said scene is, in fact, horrific, although not the worst I've read.
It also completely and totally deflates the novel.
The basic premise is that we need to do more to save/aid foreign refugees seeking asylum from bloodthirsty corporations/countries. I completely agree with that. This book in no way altered or added to my concern on the topic. It is obviously an illustrated plea, or an attempt to educate, but I found it so melodramatic, it made a mockery of something I already believe srongly about.
In addition to stretching my credulity about a topic that is supposed to be based on fact, the book strained my patience. I am normally an avaricious reader, but I found this book a struggle to get through. Once Little Bee's and Sarah's history was clear, and once it was obvious where the rest of the book was headed, all that was left was to read page after page of Sarah agonizing over her life decisions while her lover stands by as the Voice of Reason (which also happens to be the Voice of Insensivity and Selfishness).
Adding to this was the character of Charlie, with his ridculously cute grammatical errors, so oozing with adorable precociousness I'm surprised he is never described as "tow-headed" or "apple-cheeked." Charlie's mother allows him to wear a Batman costume non-stop for the space of two seasons, even to his father's funeral, although she never thinks to break to him the news that his dad has passed. It seems as if she WANTS Charlie to grow up with serious emotional problems. She certainly doesn't seem to mind putting him in an occasional life-threatening situation.
I just found it labored and patronizing. Little Bee's story is brutal and important, and yet it is filled with eye-rolling cutesiness and an unnecessary amount of predictable padding. Too sweet for this reader. Next time, less honey.
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Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave (Paperback - February 16, 2010)