Little Bee, the protagonist of Chris Cleave's novel of the same name, is a 16-year-old Nigerian refugee seeking asylum in Britain. She is also a born explainer. To the British, she explains the chaos and violence of the hidden oil war that is destroying her country. To the girls back home, an imaginary audience of villagers she doesn't expect to ever see again, she explains commuting, tract houses, and the topless photos in the pages of English newspapers. "To survive, you have to look good or talk good," she tells us early on. She has chosen to talk good, and here we get a dense, quirky, and allusive portrait of London and its suburbs through the eyes of a bright newcomer who has already seen too much.
Little Bee's point of view alternates with that of Sarah, a well-off British woman whose life, until she met Little Bee, was comfortable, if not content. She edited a saucy women's magazine, had a husband and a 4-year-old son, and was carrying on an affair with a suave and self-hating government apparatchik. When her marriage reaches a crisis point, she retreats on holiday to a Nigerian beach with her husband. They're on this beach, in the middle of an oil war that the vacation promoters had failed to mention, when Little Bee runs, terrified, into their lives. The violent confrontation that follows forces them into a reckoning for which none of them is prepared.
Narrator Anne Flosnik gives a halting, deliberate tone to Little Bee's passages and a flustered brittleness to Sarah's. The accents are muddy at times, but Flosnik deftly colors the speech of both women with their different ages and temperaments. Little Bee, in particular, speaks with the heavy confidence of a person who has come a long way to tell a sad story. In this world, says Little Bee, "Nobody likes each other, but everybody likes U2." In Little Bee, globalization has created a wealth of superficial connections but done little to break down barriers. Real connections, when they happen, carry as much risk as reward. Rosalie Knecht
Two years later, Little Bee appears in London on the day of Andrew's funeral and reconnects with Sarah. Sarah is struggling to come to terms with her husband's recent suicide and the stubborn behavior of her four-year-old son, who is convinced that he really is Batman. The tenuous friendship between Sarah and Little Bee that grows, is challenged, and ultimately endures is the heart of this emotional, tense, and often hilarious novel.
Considered by some to be the next Kite Runner, Little Bee is an achingly human story set against the inhuman realities of war-torn Africa. Wrenching tests of friendship and terrible moral dilemmas fuel this irresistible novel.
©2008 Chris Cleave; (P)2009 Tantor
"Cleave is a nerves-of-steel storyteller of stealthy power, and this is a novel as resplendent and menacing as life itself." (Booklist)
"Every now and then, you come across a character in a book whose personality is so salient and whose story carries such devastating emotional force it's as if she becomes a fixed part of your consciousness. So it is with...Chris Cleave's brilliant and unforgettable Little Bee." (The Oregonian)
"Expect astonishment, for this is a work inspiring in depth and style; a work that alters perceptions." (Bookslut)
I was surprised by this book; it is original, full of suspense and astute psychological insight. "Little bee," the tile, sounds so innocent, but it deals with very adult topics and is not for the faint of heart! I thought the reading by Anne Flosnik was very well done. When I first heard the Nigerain accent, I thought: "oh, no!" but I quicky got used to it and thought the reader did a great job sustaining the characters throughout the novel. Another reviewer said the ending left you hanging, but I beg to differ!
A very mult-layered story - with intrigue, sadness, alarm, heart pounding situations; incredibly written and narrated - you would never think that it is a male author -- it is written through the minds of the women, the main characters -- so realistically. Also, you can never guess where the story is going, even in the end there are different interpretations one can have. It is a book, after being read, where you want to do research on the subject, which I plan on as I see some of the other reviewers have done and that is about the oil situation in Nigeria and the UK immigration situation; pretty hideous sounding. How the author was able to get this Little Bee story on paper and get the message through so clearly and loudly, yet in a loving manner, is a real tribute to his writing. Highly recommend.
Little Bee is a story both sad and hopeful, horrific and funny. It's told in the voices of two women: Little Bee, a 16-year old from Nigeria who, after two years, finds herself "unofficially" discharged from an immigration detention center in southern England; and Sarah O'Rourke, magazine editor, mother, reporter's wife. Among Little Bee's few belongings are Andrew O'Rourke's driver's license and business card. Not knowing anyone in the UK, she decides to head for the address on the driver's license. And thus begins a journey for both women.
If you've seen Little Bee in print, you know that the dust jacket warns that there are many surprises to come, that the publisher won't spoil them by telling you much, and that you shouldn't tell anyone else either. I didn't see what all the secrecy was about, beyond a marketing ploy. The book is no more "surprising" than many others. Still, Cleave has a wonderfully lyrical style, especially in the character of Little Bee.
As to the reader, the unvarying cheerfulness apparently intended to represent Little Bee's accent did get a bit monotonous and annoying at times. While that lilting African accent is charming, I doubt that Africans use exactly the same tone and pacing for every emotion they verbally express. Still, overall, this was an engaging book with some important messages.
At first, I didn't think I'd like this book if it was going to be filled with lengthy metaphors as in the description of the British pound, but somehow by the time I was asked to agree to view a scar as a thing of beauty, I was hooked. The scenes in this book are so poignant and heart wrenching that I came to see them as beautiful as well. Yes, I cried through much of the book and yes, it might have been nice to have everything tied up with a bow on it at the end of the story but then, I might have felt duped if it had. The writing is lyrical and I enjoyed the narration tremendously. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone with a heart.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
Other reviewers have summarized the plot, so I'd like to mention that I found this book to be very engaging. The character Little Bee is likable and complex making this book interesting and accessible. This story elicits the reader/listener's emotions throughout; at times I felt both sad and wry, appreciating the author's bittersweet sense of humor. This book has interesting twists that make it quite good. And as others have mentioned, the ending is abrupt leaving the listener/reader wondering what happened to the characters. The narrator is wonderful, she is an asset to the story. I really liked this book, well worth the credit!
I had no idea what I was getting into when I began listening to this book. I was quickly engaged in the story, which is very well-written,with a highly interesting subject matter and fully developed characters. I didn't care for the narrator at first but I soon became used to her style and ended up liking it quite a bit.Definitely recommended!
living in los angeles I drive a lot, so audio books save me from a lot of frustration!
The book is a great example of an author using the power of withheld information to create suspense. We read on, wondering why a woman who has just lost her husband to suicide is so emotionally removed. We wonder how she lost her middle finger. We wonder how a Nigerian girl had ended up in a detention center in the U.K. and why she is suddenly released with no papers.
Another technique that Cleave uses is to expand time when we know that something bad is coming. For example, we already know that Sarah's husband has committed suicide, but the character does not. The police arrive before they can tell her, she jokes and talks on and on as the reader and the police squirm.
The ending comes a little quickly, but that is my only complaint. Brilliant
Little Bee is a page turner; the story is unique, moving, and riveting; the narrators are eloquent. An audiobook is the perfect way to experience the power of this novel.
I was not able to "get into" the book in the beginning; however,as I read further,I began to recognize how much thatI should appreciate our freedoms, rights, and privileges. The more I read, the more I appreciated my life and saw truthsof the hardships that Little Bee and other characters in the book endured. Although a work of fiction, the reality of life elsewhere was portrayed. I wish it could have ended on a happier note.
Book Lover and Knitter
I loved the book but had some problems with the narration. At times, the narrator sounded like she had spittle in the front of her mouth and this was annoying. On the positive side, her ability to pull off all the accents was amazingly good. I give the book a '5' and the narration a '4'
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