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The Other Hand

by Chris Cleave

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,658497903 (3.75)374
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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    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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    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 also 374 mentions

English (479)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (497)
Showing 1-5 of 479 (next | show all)
I was completely transfixed by this book. Read it as fast as I've read anything, drove my husband crazy for the two days it took me to get through it. But at the end, I can't remove the problem I have with european/American writers depicting 'Africa' as a dark, terrible place where everyone is either actively evil or complacently evil. I'm tired of that narrative. Though I do appreciate the author's willingness to step outside of the traditional white savor role.
Anyway. Read it, maybe your politics don't interfere with your enjoyment of a good story the way mine do. ( )
  Venarain | Jan 10, 2022 |
"We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we do not want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this:

This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day,and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you will never have to face. Two years later, they meet again — the story starts there…

Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens The magic is in how the story unfolds."

~~~~~~
~~~~~~


This is the text on the inside leaf of the dust cover for Chris Cleave’s book, Little Bee.

Damn you publisher. damn you to hell. have a little faith in your reader base. i would have read this book anyway, the expectations set in the fold were misleading and cruel. you cant read a book like this under false pretenses. each time something happens, it is compared against the expectations set. and the book is left wanting, but not by its own merit, by your deceit.

—-

For everyone else out there, here is what it should read in the leaf fold of the dust cover:

" Little bee, a refugee from Nigeria, knows only one man and one woman in London. Her story is sad as is the stories of the man and woman she knows. When she tells her story, you will listen. Not by force, but because the scar tissue from her tale is beautiful, if only you see it in the right light."

If anyone tells you there is magic here, slap them, then keep reading.

This is one of the saddest books I have ever read, but if you are prepared for this fact, you can certainly enjoy it. Little Bee is well written and grabs your attention from beginning to end. It is not magic.

--
xpost RawBlurb.com ( )
  Toast.x2 | Sep 23, 2021 |
There is a noble premise to this book, to raise awareness about asylum seekers to Britain, and to combat the sentiment of apathy that most people feel towards their plight.
The premise is noble and the character of the Little Bee is sweet and fascinating. The way she superimposes her experience in Britain on remembrances of her Nigerian home is quite endearing.
However, and I cannot quite put my finger on it, the book left me unsatisfied. Like many stories that are written by white people about Africa or about African people there is a certain flatness to them.
The Africans are always the helpless people that surrender to their fate, no matter how many radical plans they make to escape it.
Africans are either brutes or victims. Either sub-human monsters or near-saints, but perhaps this is just me. Little Bee comes quite close to a real-life humane and wise African girl, but the others in this book are not quite so engaging.
Of course you will have to read the novel to judge by yourself, it is quite short and easy to finish in one or two sittings.

The book is about Little Bee the Nigerian girl who finds herself a central character in the life of Sarah, a British editor of a funky women magazine, and mother to 4-year-old Charlie. The events of the novel takes place over a few weeks but move backwards to the memory of both women's lives and the fateful events that brought them together. It is narrated in the alternating voices of Sara and Little Bee.

One thing that bothered me as a mother of a small child is the portrayal of the little boy, Charlie, a.k.a Batman. His speech manner is quite irritating and I think it is quite exaggerated because 4-year-olds in my experience are quite capable of uttering grammatical sentences. Sarah has her heart in the right place, but she is also neurotic to say the least, this is perhaps done on purpose to illustrate that sometimes the immigrant is far wiser than the full-blooded British citizen with his or her "values" whatever they are.
Perhaps I would have given the book one extra half star but since the option is not available I am erring on the minus side, simply because the book did not deliver on it hyped up promise. ( )
  moukayedr | Sep 5, 2021 |
Argh, not enough pleasure for me in this book. Said the selfish first world brat. The voices and language is nice. I loved Yevette from Jamaica and who wouldn't. I liked the coolness of the voices, both LB's and Sarah's. It seemed to me that Sarah had a weird amount of energy for the mom of a less than 5 year old. High profile job, lover, afternoon soirees; how does she do it?! I found LB variable as a character. Knowing and authoritative when confronting Lawrence about spending the night at Sarah's. Seems weird for a 16 year old. The coincidence? of LB finding Andrew in crisis was unconvincing for me. The end in Nigeria seemed false, why would Sarah put her child in danger?

I started a list of number and types of assaults at the beginning of the book as a way of distancing myself. By the end of the book it wasn't as high a total as I expected, we chewed on the same ones over and over. As I got to the end I realized that the footnotes and contact information for organizations were coming. They did. Not completely successful as book. I thought the detainment center chapters were the best written. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
adult fiction. the stories of two women magically unfold--I'm not supposed to tell you what happens, but it's very moving. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 479 (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" leaves little doubt that Cleave deserves the praise. He has carved two indelible characters whose choices in even the most straitened circumstances permit them dignity -- if they are willing to sacrifice for it. "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.
added by VivienneR | editThe Washington Post, Sarah L Courteau (Feb 25, 2009)
 
"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)
 

» 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)
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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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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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