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Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee (edition 2011)

by Chris Cleave

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Title:Little Bee
Authors:Chris Cleave
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The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

2009 (26) 2010 (51) 2011 (35) Africa (187) book club (74) book group (20) British (28) contemporary fiction (31) death (21) England (204) fiction (570) grief (22) immigrants (66) immigration (153) Kindle (21) literary fiction (23) London (62) Nigeria (329) novel (54) oil (23) read (55) read in 2009 (27) read in 2010 (44) refugees (222) suicide (83) to-read (104) UK (37) violence (32) war (39) women (33)
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» See also 297 mentions

English (371)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Turkish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (389)
Showing 1-5 of 371 (next | show all)
When Nigerian refugee Little Bee is released from an immigration camp in the UK after two years in captivity, she goes to the home of the only two people she knows, Sarah and Andrew. She arrives two hours before Andrew's funeral, and Sarah, in her confused and depressed state, brings Little Bee to the funeral and allows her to stay on at the house. Sarah's lover Lawrence pushes for Sarah to call the police and have Little Bee deported, but Sarah feels responsible for her and likes the way Little Bee interacts with her four-year-old Charlie.

This is a highly political book, but using the alternating first person voices of Little Bee and Sarah takes the message from an abstract concept to a place where the reader can see how laws and ideas like "us" and "them" can affect real people.

I'm not sure what was supposed to be funny in this book. Several publisher's descriptions mention the book's sense of humor, but the actual overall feeling was sad. I was disappointed that so many characters in the book did not have empathy for another human being. It seemed like privilege and security made even self-proclaimed activists unwilling to step outside their comfort zone.

I'm not the first person to mention this, but the publisher's description is way off and does the book a disservice. Many reviewers have done a better job of describing the story without spoiling the plot and without misleading potential readers. ( )
  bohemiangirl35 | Apr 12, 2014 |
The characters in the story decide when to put themselves first and when to offer charity. Is one human life ever more valuable than another? What if one of the lives in question is your own? Can we believe that even in the face of unspeakable inhumanity, humanity
can prevail?

"Wouldn't that be funny, if the oil rebels were playing U2 in their jungle camps, and the government soldiers were playing U2 in their trucks. I think everyone was killing everyone else and listening to the same music... That is a good trick about this world, Sarah. No one likes each other, but everyone likes U2."
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
The characters in the story decide when to put themselves first and when to offer charity. Is one human life ever more valuable than another? What if one of the lives in question is your own? Can we believe that even in the face of unspeakable inhumanity, humanity
can prevail?

"Wouldn't that be funny, if the oil rebels were playing U2 in their jungle camps, and the government soldiers were playing U2 in their trucks. I think everyone was killing everyone else and listening to the same music... That is a good trick about this world, Sarah. No one likes each other, but everyone likes U2."
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
I wanted to like this book. Little Bee has had great reviews. I didn't like the writing style nor did I find the story captivating. It was not convincible. I skimmed through most pages just to get to the end. ( )
  AnnikaBirgitta | Apr 1, 2014 |
Little Bee is the story of two women who come together in an unexpected way. One is a journalist and the other a refugee. The bond between them has taken a serious toll on the life of Sarah, the journalist. Sarah has had a rather easy life that she has exploited until her meeting with Little Bee. Sarah makes a decision that she hopes will make a difference for once. Only time will tell. Particularly well done and enjoyable was the character of Batman. Equally noble and brave was Little Bee. This was extremely readable especially considering it is set partially in England and was written and published there as well, something that usually make a book a little harder for me to pick up and read.
I marked two places in the book where I thought the quotes were particularly poignant and true. I will leave you with those since the author specifically asks us not to tell what happens in the story.
“Death, of course is a refuge. It’s where you go when a new name, or a mask and cape, can no longer hide you from yourself.”
“But the film in your memory, you cannot walk out of is so easily. Wherever you go it is always playing. So when I say that I am a refugee, you must understand that there is no refuge.” ( )
  exbrook | Mar 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 371 (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 editionsconfirmed
Flosnik, AnneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)
For Joseph
First words
Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.
(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.
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Disambiguation notice
The Other Hand (UK) / Little Bee (US)
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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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