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on November 26, 2013
this book it so annoying. it's obviously written by someone who has very little understanding of nigerians and nigeria. As a nigerian girl this book was very inauthentic and all it does it perpetrate stereotypes of nations in africa. i would have been okay if he wrote an frictional book that had some basis on reality, but he did not. Example which nigerian says "jungle"? there are no jungles in Nigeria, we have forests (rain forests and mangrove forests). If we wanted to refer to [forest] we will say "bush" or "forest" not jungle. Jungle to me is another way the white men describe africa. Jungle is a proxy for primitive. Little bee is so naive and annoying, Nigerians are not like that. Which nigerian will name herself "little bee"? Really? this man obviously imagined this book in his room and looked at the map and pick one country in africa to base his stupid book. it was annoying to read, a waste of my time and money. He should write about countries and cultures he know about and leave nigerian culture and accounts to people who know what to say. If you like literature on nigeria read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie books or chinua achebe's books. Chris Clive all you did was reenforce ignorant stereotypes of nigeria and africa as a whole.
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on July 20, 2014
This book is important today, this minute. With thousands of refugee children pouring over our borders, the signs refusing them shelter outweighing signs welcoming them, we in the US need this story.

I've read the negative comment, that this book is not "real" - I remembered this book in vivid detail for more than two years, so it is "real". And I've read the infamous blurb - which was appalling to me. Only someone deeply incapable of recognizing the inhumanity we daily show to one another could find this book "amusing." The scene on the beach is unforgettably terrible. A young girl is raped and beaten until she - slowly - dies. This is so far beyond "uncomfortable" that it hardly bears repeating. The scenes in the detention center in England made me physically ill. The scenes between Little Bee and Sarah, the English woman who saves her life her on a beach in Nigeria, are hard and hot, and brittle, and give off waves of hope, like smoke. In them, we can see a glimmer of light. That light comes from Little Bee herself, and from Sarah, too, who begins the book with an act of extraordinary courage.

So this book reflects us - we humans - it has both evil of the deepest kind, and uncommon good. We are victim and terrorist, one after the other, all our lives. Not in action, most of us, but in our hearts. All of us. So yes, this book is real.

At the beginning of the book, the scene on the beach in Africa sets the theme and tone of the entire arc of the story, and sends echoes through our lives as well. Two African refugee girls are trapped between the sea and the forest by African "soldiers" - terrorists who have been hunting them. An English couple sees this unfolding, and the leader of the murdering crew tells them that he will spare the lives of the girls if the Englishman will cut off one of his own fingers. Sarah's husband, who thinks too much, cannot, but Sarah grabs a machete and cuts off her finger. In a burst of realism, this act "buys" the life of only one of the girls, a woman's sacrifice being but half of a man's.

Throughout the book, the elements of this theme and this moment play again and again.

The English couple leave Little Bee, whose life is spared, but she has to hear every agony of her sister's dying. This scene should make you sick to your heart. And that sickness will recur every time you think of this book. I read it first more than two years ago, and cannot escape it.

We know that Sarah and Little Bee have not seen the last of each other. And a book of pain and possibility, denial and redemption, unfolds.

At the end of the book, there is a scene on that same beach two years later, which has the same resonance as the first. This time, we do not see or hear the horror. We don't have to. Reality lingers. For me, probably forever.

Today, this country is in the throes of an immigrant crisis - 50,000 children and counting, pouring over our borders from Central America, alone and vulnerable, fleeing terrorists. We have a choice: we can recreate horror. Or we can find a new way - we can sacrifice some of our wealth and isolation and save them. We clearly cannot stop the inhumanity of the terrorists (the child Charlie's "baddies"), wherever and whoever they are. But we can build a new life for some of their young victims.

Many readers, in their comments, seem so blind! I kept getting the idea that for them this very good book was just a book, not a portrait of life. Fortunately for me, reading, if the book is "real," is a living out or a reliving. A book is not just a book, but a slice of life. I accept a good writer's voicing of his characters, and his choice of scenes and details. While I might flinch from time to time at a perceived flaw, even that's acceptable because I am following a trusted voice. This story led me into many paths, past and future. During our own US human cataclysms - slavery, the Civil War, the slaughter of the Native Americans, Jim Crow, Viet Nam - most of the "bosses," different for each situation except that all usually white, blinded themselves to the human truths around them. When we do that we get stuck in the scenario. It doesn't get better; we don't, as they say, go clear. When, as with Laurence in this book, the lives of strangers different from us are in not the scope of our hearts and brains, we are all trapped in inhumanity.

Are we really so afraid of the dark in our own hearts that we cannot light even one small lamp? Come now -
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on August 24, 2016
Chris Cleaves' Little Bee belongs in my top 10 British novels that I recommend you must read before dying. Its two protagonists, Little Bee and Sarah, come from two very different worlds with very different tongues, but for the language we all have in common -- love, laughter, sadness, and joy. Such a beautifully constructed story, with a tension-filled narrative arc, that I never wanted it to end. And the little boy, Charlie, what a memorable character in his Batman suit. The novel takes place in Nigeria and England, but it could be set in many other places. Wherever there is strife, as in Nigeria, and places that draw asylum seekers, as in England, you might find a similar convergence of events. It is the human aspects of this story that makes it so powerful. And it raises many questions, especially about our Western/first world fear of and lack of empathy for displaced persons of the world. This novel deserves a place on your reading shelf!
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on June 2, 2016
I knew nothing about this novel as I had forgotten why I originally bought it for my Kindle. It started slow in the voice of Little Bee but when Sarah began her narrative I rushed to pick it up at every waking moment, even at 2am. It is compelling and touching and frightening, with anticipation at each page turn. This author, a man, speaks through both female characters in totally believable dialogue and in their introspective silent selves. This is a must read especially for those of us fortune enough to never face the cruelty of deportation status and, loss of family to brutal death circumstances in third world areas.
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on February 19, 2011
The first few chapters are the best thing about this book! I was blown away. Sadly, it is almost all downhill from there!

At times I was so impressed by the writing and storytelling in this book. However, overall, I felt like it was trying to do, and be something it is not-- a groundbreaking novel that inspires and evokes emotions and passions. Some chapters were so beautifully written while others were terribly redundant. While Cleave was trying to tell the same story from two different points of view by having the narrator switch between Little Bee and Sarah it made it seem very repetitive.

Also, what really annoyed me about this book was that it is reads like a westernized white man wrote it--someone who is so incredibly unfamiliar with the literary and real-world voice of an African refugee girl. The same way that non-Native American authors who attempt to write in the voice of a Native American tend to stick to cliches and the stereotypical proverbs--speaking as though they are so in-tuned with nature, the spiritual world and the soul is what happens here with Little BEE. (If you read the book, "The Help" you see that although it is written by a white woman who speaks in the voice of southern Black women maids she does so fluently and the result is so believable and incredible. This is most likely because she grew up with and around black maids. ) But, I digress. I hoped that Little BEE would live up to some of it's hype, but it simply did not.

I couldn't wait to finish the book because it was starting to drag on and on and was not at all surprised by the way the story unfolded--predictable seems like an understatement. Cleave's biggest mistake was trying to make the novel DO TOO MUCH! Nothing was really believable outside of the facts he intertwines in the story (i.e. life in a detention center). When he tries to create more of the story around the facts he almost fails completely.

I simply could not sink my teeth into the characters as they were so poorly developed. His highest achievement is Sarah, however. At times reading the chapters she narrated felt like divinely inspired revelations about life, relationships, women, and the harsh realities and consequences of the real world. Her character was as real as Cleave could get (and he needed to do more!) While Little BEE was like some strange African Proverb personified. We needed to see more from Little BEE, more from a young girl who was born into and experienced some terrible, terrible, terrible things! Where was her anger! Her Hurt, HER PASSION! She was far too sensible to be such a young survivor! Where were her questions? her doubts-- basically everything he gave to Sarah!

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on May 10, 2016
This was a very gut wrenching read. It is often hard to believe how simple and mundane our lives can be as compared to someone who comes from another place in another time where there is so little. I learned a lot while reading this story about what it must be like to live in a place like Little Bee lived. The hardships she and others had and have to endure just to simply............ live. The guts and determination it must take for those in reality to be faced with her obstacles and hardships to live a better way of life are unimaginable. This book will touch you to the very core and you will wonder at the indomitable human spirit. Excellent reading.
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on June 7, 2010
Little Bee is the assumed name of a 16-year-old Nigerian girl who is a refugee from her native land, displaced by the money (and death) that oil brings. She is alive because of the sacrifice of an British woman, Sarah, on a beach in Nigeria. Little Bee spends 2 years of her short life in a detention center for illegal immigrants in England. Released on a fluke, she seeks out the the "only person she knows" in the country, Sarah's husband Andrew, whose driver's license and card she found after the sacrifice, and are all the "papers" she has.

Alternate chapters are written by Sarah and Little Bee, and Chris Cleave is to be commended for his excellent rendition of two very different persons through their very different perceptions and use of language. Sarah, an editor of a fashion magazine, is concerned about being less "Surrey", less smugly British and comfortable. Little Bee, for whom all possible stories now begin, "then the men came, and they . . . ." is concerned about how to avoid the "and they" part of the scenario. Her coping mechanism is to closely observe every environment for the available tools of self-destruction it contains--mirrors for fragments to slash wrists, garden forks for falling upon, etc.,--and this knowledge paradoxically sustains her through great difficulties.

The two women learn much from each other in the course of the novel, sharing a life that takes them back to Nigeria, where they dangerously begin gathering the stories of other refugees displaced by greed and subject to instant death for having witnessed the horrors that greed can perform. The ending, on the same beach where the first sacrifice took place, is not happy, but it is a great triumph of the human spirit. Cleave closes the book with a Nigerian proverb:
"If your face is swollen from the severe beatings of life, smile and pretend to be a fat man."

Get the book. Read it. You will weep.
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on October 25, 2016
Chris Cleave masterfully s intertwines the story of two women, rich vs. poor, free vs. prisoner in the developed vs. developing world. "Little Bee" leaves the reader thinking about real refugees and the sacrifices and hardships they endure to come to the United States. Not only does Cleave delve deeply into the refugee experience but he also masterfully portrays the sentiment of those who view refugees as a "drain on resources"--as a problem that will inevitably disappear if they are ignored. "Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it." Lawrence, a supporting character in the main plot, is one such person who wants to buy off Little Bee and make the refugee problem disappear. The mentality of "I gave at the office" is simply not enough to help the millions of people who risk their lives to seek better lives. Cleave's story drives the reader to take action against injustice in which citizens have no control over. He brings human rights issues to light which many in the 'developed' world take for granted, and we are reminded that we should never stop trying to help others. Many people believe they cannot end injustice, but Cleave reminds us that one person's actions can save the life of one person, which ultimately counts in the grand scheme of life.

I became quite emotionally invested in this book, and I was a bit disappointed with the ending. Cleave does not provide us with a neat, happy ending; rather, there are many loose ties that are never explained. While I appreciate the fact that the refugee crisis is not easily understand or solved, the emotional side wants to know what the future holds for the three main characters I came to care about so much. I will definitely be reading more of Cleave's work because he is a brilliant writer, and he proves nonfiction does not have to be the only platform to bring social issues to light.
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on March 14, 2011
My book club met today, and only one woman enjoyed the book. All of us had a lively time discussing how the plot was contrived and the characters with the partial exception of Little Bee were neither fleshed out nor likeable. It seemed as though the author just put in shocking scenes even though there was no explanation or plausibility. I was very angry when I finished the book. I felt deceived by the author. Immediately I began another book I knew to be satisfying to get away from the unpleasant feelings generated by this one.
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on May 21, 2012
I found myself willing this to end, not a good sign. So much promise in the beginning but ending being a totally cringeworthy book. Just as the characters started to develop, they disappeared into unbelievable people that had no substance. Sarah was particularly annoying. Could have been so much better and ended with many issues unresolved. Sometimes I felt I was reading Barbara Cartland.
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