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Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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Little Bee (edition 2010)

by Chris Cleave

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6,317453626 (3.77)339
Member:karen-s
Title:Little Bee
Authors:Chris Cleave
Info:Simon & Schuster (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read books
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, book club Elements, 2012

Work details

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

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» See also 339 mentions

English (439)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  All (1)  All (457)
Showing 1-5 of 439 (next | show all)
First off, the hype on the back of this book is totally misleading. That pretty much knocked off a whole star for me here. You can't praise your own book to that extent and then have a slightly above mediocre book.
That aside, I quite enjoyed this book. Mind you, it was certainly not an easy read but I'm glad I read it. ( )
1 vote serogers02 | Jun 10, 2017 |
Brilliant. Searing violence but touching despair. ( )
  Soulmuser | May 30, 2017 |
My wife has been reminding me – on about a bi-weekly basis – that I needed to read Chris Cleave’s novel, Little Bee. My hand was forced when it was selected for my book club. I got to the novel only a few days before our meeting, and I had no trouble finishing it quickly. It is a heart-rending tale of a young girl orphaned by a corrupt government, which places oil production above any of its citizens. Cleave was born in London in 1973. He attended Balliol College. Little Bee is his second of four novels, and yes, those three are on the way. The writing was marvelous – except for a few pages of annoying dialect.

Little Bee lived in a village targeted by the government for clearing to open lands to oil drilling. She escaped the slaughter of her family by hiding in the jungle. As the novel opens, Bee has been released from a detention center in the UK after a bribe and a guard willing to look the other way. Bee speaks “the Queen’s English,” so she can maneuver more easily than the three others released with her, all of whom have heavy accents.

Cleave’s prose is magnificent throughout the novel. When the four women separate, Bee heads to an address on a driver’s license she found on the beach. The reader does not know the circumstances of this detail until much later. Bee has formed a relationship with Yevette in the detention center. Cleave writes, “Leaving Yevette, that was the hardest thing I had to do since I left my village. But if you are a refugee, when death comes you do not stay for one minute in the place it has visited. Many things arrive after death – sadness, questions, and policemen – and none of these can be answered when your papers are not in order. // Truly there is no flag for us floating people. We are millions, but we are not a nation. We cannot stay together. Maybe we get together in ones and twos, for a day or a month or even a year, but then the wind changes and carries the hope away. Death came and I left in fear. Now all I have is my shame and the memory of bright colors and the echo of Yevette’s laugh. Sometimes I feel as lonely as the Queen of England” (80).

Little Bee finds her way to the address on the license. She hides for a few days in bushes behind Sarah’s garden. Finally, Bee knocks on the door, and Sarah recognizes here from the beach in Nigeria. She lets her into the house, and tells Bee her husband Andrew has committed suicide, and he would be buried later that day. Bee instantly comforts Sarah’s son, Charlie, and they quickly develop a bond. Charlie does not understand the absence of his father, and he begins acting out in day care. Sarah and Bee come for Charlie, who was angry and hiding in a corner. Cleave writes, “I went into the corner with Charlie. I stood next to him and I turned my face into the corner, too. I did not look at him, I looked at the bricks and I did not say anything. I am good at looking at bricks and not saying anything. In the immigration detention center I did it for two years, and that is my record” (143). Bee always fears someone was coming to take her away. “I was thinking what I would do in that nursery room, if the men came suddenly. It was not an easy room, I am telling you. For example, there was nothing to cut yourself with. All the scissors were made of plastic and their ends were round and soft. If I suddenly needed to kill myself in that room, I did not know how I was going to do it” (143). Be is always looking over her shoulder, always fearing when a stranger makes eye contact.

This story has an open ending, and for that I am fortunate. Had the worst happened, it would have affected me deeply. If you have never encountered an undocumented person, read Little Bee by Chris Cleave and walk a mile in their shoes. 5 stars

--Jim, 5/27/17 ( )
  rmckeown | May 28, 2017 |
One of those books that tugs at all of your heart strings and beckons you to search deep within yourself to see what kind of person you'd be when faced with difficult circumstances. ( )
  jthao_02 | May 18, 2017 |
I listened to this on audio. I think I would have liked it as well in book form, but the reader did a wonderful job of speaking in Little Bee's Nigerian accent which added something to the whole experience. It was a lyrically written account of a young Nigerian woman who flees to England in hopes of being granted refugee status after her sister was murdered by soldiers. By chance an English couple vacationing in Nigeria were caught up in the encounter with the soldiers, and were able to save Little Bee, but not without incident. When she arrives in England, Little Bee finds the couple -- the only people she knows in the country. I won't say more about the plot, but will say that it is wonderful to see England through Little Bee's eyes. She often muses on how she would explain certain rather mundane things to her girlfriends back home and in doing so she sheds light on the vast differences between the cultures. The charachters are all well written, including a little boy who beleives he is Batman (costume and all). It is a book that contrasts the touching softness and brutal harshness of the world. Highly recommended ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 439 (next | show all)
While the pretext of “Little Bee” initially seems contrived — two strangers, a British woman and a Nigerian girl, meet on a lonely African beach and become inextricably bound through the horror imprinted on their encounter — its impact is hardly shallow. Rather than focusing on postcolonial guilt or African angst, Cleave uses his emotionally charged narrative to challenge his readers’ conceptions of civility, of ethical choice.
 
"Little Bee" is the best kind of political novel: You're almost entirely unaware of its politics because the book doesn't deal in abstractions but in human beings.
 
Book clubs in search of the next "Kite Runner" need look no further than this astonishing, flawless novel about what happens when ordinary, mundane Western lives are thrown into stark contrast against the terrifying realities of war-torn Africa.
 
Cleave has a sharp cinematic eye, but the plot is undermined by weak motivations and coincidences.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly (Nov 10, 2008)
 
The taut spring of Cleave's intricate plot is a sequence of unpalatable moral decisions that cleverly bind life-choices to the guilty freight of conscience. But this novel's great strength is the squeamishly raw candour of its protagonists.
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chris Cleaveprimary authorall editionscalculated
Flosnik, AnneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Britain is proud of its tradition of providing a safe haven for people fleeting [sic] persecution and conflict. - From Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship (UK Home Office, 2005)
Dedication
For Joseph
First words
Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.
Quotations
(Little Bee, p.13/14:) "...and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That's what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty (...) Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, "I survived".
Through the lobby of the Home Office building, the public sector shuffled past in its scuffed shoes, balancing its morning coffee on cardboard carry trays. The women bulged out of M&S trouser suits, wattles wobbling and bangles clacking. The men seemed limp and hypoxic--half-garroted by their ties. Everyone stooped, or scuttled, or nervously ticked. They carried themselves like weather presenters preparing to lower expectations for the bank-holiday weekend.
We knew what we had: we had nothing. Your world and our world had come to this understanding. Even the missionaries had boarded up their mission. They left us with the holy books that were not worth the expense of shipping back to your country. In our village our only Bible had all of its pages missing after the forty-sixth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, so that the end of our religion, as far as any of us knew, was My God, my god, why hast thous forsaken me? We understood that this was the end of the story. That is how we lived, happily and without hope. I was very young then, and I did not miss having a future because I did not know I was entitled to one.
Compromise, eh? Isn't it sad, growing up? You start off like my Charlie. You start off thinking you can kill all the baddies and save the world. Then you get a little bit older, maybe Little Bee's age, and you realize that some of the world's badness is inside you, that maybe you're a part of it. And then you get a little bit older still, and a bit more comfortable, and you start wondering whether that badness you've seen in yourself is really all that bad at all. You start talking about ten percent.
There were people in that crowd, and strolling along the walkway, from all of the different colors and nationalities of the earth. There were more races even than I recognized from the detention center. I stood with my back against the railings and my mouth open and I watched them walking past, more and more of them. And then I realized it. I said to myself, Little Bee, there is no them. This endless procession of people, walking along beside this great river, these people are you.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The Other Hand (UK) / Little Bee (US)
Publisher's editors
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Book description
Publisher Comments:
We don't want to tell you too much about this book!

It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.

Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:

It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.

The story starts there, but the book doesn't.

And it's what happens afterward that is most important.

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.
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A haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers--one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.

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