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Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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Little Bee (edition 2011)

by Chris Cleave

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5,484406791 (3.77)309
Member:Sunshine46
Title:Little Bee
Authors:Chris Cleave
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Little Bee by Chris Cleave

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» See also 309 mentions

English (392)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Turkish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (410)
Showing 1-5 of 392 (next | show all)
plenty in CLAN and CC
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
The subject matter is gripping - a young girl comes to the UK from Nigeria as a refugee after her entire village is brutally massacred by thugs from an oil company. As the only witness to this crime, she cannot return to her home country without facing imprisonment and probably death, yet she is unwelcome in Britain. Released from her detention center by a computer error, Little Bee seeks out the only two British citizens she knows, in hopes that they will be able to help her.

Touching and beautifully written, this novel suffers from a touch of unreality. Some of the circumstances and reactions of the characters seemed unlikely and far-fetched. Especially annoying is the character of Sarah's four year old son. His dialogue was excruciating, complete with repeated "cutesy" grammatical errors. I couldn't imagine any of this boy's dialogue coming out of the mouth of my young nephews. It always rang false.

I loved Little Bee's voice and the subject matter but the character development and dialogue needs work. ( )
  Juva | Mar 30, 2015 |
I loved Little Bee by Chris Cleave. This novel brings to light a real world issue concerning the treatment of immigrants in Britain, and that light reflects on the same issue in other first world nations. But the politics of the book are not what makes it a wonderful read. The characters of Sarah and Little Bee are different ages and have very different backgrounds, but they are both strong women. They use their strengths against violent, horrible circumstances and against their own flaws.

Here's a section where Little Bee discusses how she coped in the detention center:

I made myself undesirable. I declined to wash, and I let my skin grow oily. Under my clothes I wound a wide strip of cotton around my chest, to make my breasts small and flat. When the charity boxes arrived, full of secondhand clothes and shoes, some of the other girls tried to make themselves pretty but I rummaged through the cartons to find clothes that hid my shape. I wore loose blue jeans and a man's Hawaiian shirt and heavy black boots with the steel toe caps shining through the torn leather. I went to the detention nurse and I made her cut my hair very short with medical scissors. For the whole two years I did not smile or even look in any man's face. I was terrified. Only at night, after they locked the men away, I went back to my detention cell and I unwound the cloth from my breasts and I breathed deeply. Then I took off my heavy boots and I drew my knees up to my chin. Once a week, I sat on the foam mattress of my bed and I painted my toenails. I found the little bottle of nail varnish at the bottom of a charity box. It still had the price ticket on it. If I ever discover the person who gave it then I will tell them, for the cost of one British pound and ninety-nine pence, they saved my life. Because this is what I did in that place, to remind myself I was alive underneath everything: under my steel toe caps I wore bright red nail varnish. Sometimes when I took my boots off I screwed up my eyes against the tears and I rocked back and fro, shivering from the cold.

If I had to use one word to describe this novel, I believe that word would be intense. The plot has intense situations that kept me riveted. Some characters offer intense sacrifices, while others feel intense guilt. And the relationship between Sarah and Little Bee is intense enough to get them through hard problems and to cause others.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | Mar 10, 2015 |
Loved the book, UNTIL the ending.. Hated it. ( )
  NHNick | Jan 5, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book quite a lot and thought the subject matter was interesting--to me, in particular, because I am married to an immigrant who though legal now was illegal before and through him I experienced some of the heartless craziness of the US immigration system. This book is about England and Nigeria. The scenes having to do with the English immigration system early in the book had the ring of truth and conviction about them. My reservation has more to do with the realization of the story. The two main characters are women, one English and one a Nigerian girl. I think it must be truly challenging for a male author to inhabit his female characters, especially across such a cultural divide as West Africa presents. So sometimes the characters were not completely convincing and sometimes the language seemed forced. Compared for instance to Skippy Dies, a book I just LOVED, with Little Bee I never fell entirely into the story as I did with the former. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book, I would read another by this author, and I really am happy that he took on telling a story about immigrant experience and the meeting of cultures. ( )
  jdukuray | Dec 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 392 (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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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)
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)
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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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