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Little Bee: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 10, 2009
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Amazon Best of the Month, February 2009: The publishers of Chris Cleave's new novel "don't want to spoil" the story by revealing too much about it, and there's good reason not to tell too much about the plot's pivot point. All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn't explain to the girls from her village because they'd have no context for its abundance and calm. But she shows us the infinite rifts in a globalized world, where any distance can be crossed in a day--with the right papers--and "no one likes each other, but everyone likes U2." Where you have to give up the safety you'd assumed as your birthright if you decide to save the girl gazing at you through razor wire, left to the wolves of a failing state. --Mari Malcolm
From Bookmarks Magazine
Chris Cleave's Little Bee works because the unflinching, brutal story balances an outwardly political motive with rich, deep character development (and even some welcome humor), focusing narrowly on events before broadening to reveal some larger truths. Cleave's firm grasp of human nature and his unsparing disdain for injustice allow him to articulate lives as different as those of Little Bee and the less-likeable Sarah; both characters, though, are unforgettable. Comparisons between Cleave and fellow Brits Ian McEwan and John Banville are apt. The only dissent came from the San Francisco Chronicle, which took issue with the narrative voices and the rushed pace of the story. All others agreed, however, that Cleave's sophomore effort is, as the Chicago Sun-Times succinctly put it, "a loud shout of talent."Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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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.
When buying this book, I had my doubts because despite recommendations the title seemed insipid. With only a few pages started I could hardly set the book down. From Sarah's clandestine affair with Lawrence to her truncated finger, this book was filled with surprises that amazed me. The novel was not only suspenseful but had a great amount of tragedy. Having her sister, Andrew, and the girl with no name die in her vicinity, Little Bee experiences a multitude of deaths at such a young age. Bur grief never stops her from moving forward. Little Bee took everyday at a time and did everything she can to survive.
My favorite part of the novel was the ending. Usually i'm cautious when it comes to endings, but Little Bee’s ending had me wanting to continue reading. We are left with with an ambiguous ending which allowed me to really think about what will happen to Little Bee. I was able to imagine my own scenario and how everything would play out. Little Bee laughing as she watches Charlie play on the beach creates a vivid imagine in my head. However, not knowing what will happen next excited me.
Overall this novel was a great read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in a heartbreaking, evocative, and suspenseful novel. Do not let the banal cover fool you; the novel was gracefully written with a sensational story line and well developed characters. Now having read this book I look forward to reading different Chris Cleave novels and will hopefully end up finding a book just as amazing as this novel.
I mean, I do have an active imagination, but it's not like there's a sequel or something to warrant a cliffhanger. What exactly happened to Little Bee? Was she raped and cut to pieces by the baddies or was she released to continue working with Sarah and Bat Man to expose the imperialist pigs pillaging her country? Sorry, but when a book is this good, one more chapter, one more page can make a difference. To give the reader some closure. Good book, lousy ending.