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Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave
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Little Bee: A Novel (edition 2010)

by Chris Cleave

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5,324395827 (3.77)302
Member:LBT
Title:Little Bee: A Novel
Authors:Chris Cleave
Info:Simon & Schuster (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 271 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:mid 2000s, Nigerian atrocities, violence and fear, suicide, extra-marital affair, London asylum, magazine trade, unlikely friendship, conflict between partners

Work details

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

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    BookshelfMonstrosity: The stories of a impoverished countryside boy and two upper-class sisters are told against the backdrop of the 1960s Biafran War. This book, by one of Nigeria's most famous authors, should appeal to readers interested in Nigeria's history, Nigerian society and the lives of women in Nigeria.… (more)
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    2810michael: På dansk: Den anden hånd
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    dsc73277: "Hearts and Minds" and "Little Bee" have been two of the most compelling books I have read this year. Both deal sympathetically with the experience of migrants to Britain. At times they make for difficult reading, reminding one as they do of how difficult some people's lives are, however, ultimately they are not devoid of hope.… (more)
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(see all 26 recommendations)

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» See also 302 mentions

English (379)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Turkish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (397)
Showing 1-5 of 379 (next | show all)
One of the best stories I have read in along time. ( )
  Tiffy83 | Aug 11, 2014 |
Two women, one a refugee from Nigeria the other a self centred Londoner - add a suicidal husband and a disturbed five year old in a batman suit ; an engrossing story if not always believable. ( )
  siri51 | Jul 19, 2014 |
Sudden and fairly ambiguous ending. ( )
  ute_wilkinson | Jul 12, 2014 |
Love! ( )
  briealeida | Jul 6, 2014 |
Unfortunately, my problems with "Little Bee" have little to do with the novel itself.

The first, a woman in my book club made an offhand comment before I'd read it. She said to someone else who'd already read it, "Did you see the thing at the end where he says it's based on true events?" Everyone shushed her, but that information altered my perception as I read. Some other reviews comment that the characters and story are unrealistic, but I believed at least some aspect was based in truth. So when I came to the end, I thought, "That's it? That's what happened to these people? What happened next?" But when I read the afterword, I learned that it was all fictitious. Nothing happened next. And it didn't have to end that way.

The second, as many have noted, is the marketing ploy on the book jacket that tells you nothing about the plot. Some books, like "Room," could be made more powerful by such a gimmick. But it's possible to summarize "Little Bee" without giving anything away that isn't revealed in the first few pages.

"Little Bee" is the story of a young woman who shared a traumatic experience on a beach in her native Nigeria with an upper-middle class British couple. She escapes to England, where she seeks out the couple, leading to a special relationship that will change all of their lives.

Or whatever.

I loved this book for a few chapters. "Little Bee" is a very funny girl. I loved how she identified with the Queen of England. I loved how, in every new situation, she fantasized how she would kill herself if "the men came."

The chapters alternate between the points of view of Little Bee and Sarah, the female half of that upper-middle class couple. I liked Sarah at first, but then she started to piss me off. I HATED her "more than friend" Lawrence, but I loved her son Batman.

I finished the book last night, very unsatisfied, wishing it hadn't unraveled in the final chapters. I would have liked to see a more conclusive resolution. ( )
  keneumey | Jun 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 379 (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)
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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Wikipedia in English (3)

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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