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 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.
I must have read a recommendation somewhere for Little Bee and I put it on my Audible wish list. However, I never chose it for my "next read". I had often seen the book at the bookstore but unfortunately the cover didn't appeal to me, so I let the book stay on my wish list. I finally decided to download it, and was surprised by how engrossed I got by Little Bee, and watching her young life unfold. I was certainly left with a lot to think about, even after the book ended. Chris Cleave did a wonderful job with the dialog and the narrator was great at performing his words. I would highly recommend this book. I'm really glad that I kept Little Bee on my wish list and eventually chose to read it.
I have never been so mad at an author before in my life. The book was interesting but nothing great. The author though decided to end the book at the climax instead of finishing writing it. I don't know if he got bored or just thought it should be the readers job to finish the book. I will not be reading another book by this author.
My review will discuss some plot points that are revealed early on in the book.
This is the story of Little Bee and Sarah. Little Bee is a 16 year-old Nigerian girl. Sarah is the editor of a British fashion magazine. They first met on a Nigerian beach while Little Bee was running for her life and Sarah was enjoying a sunny vacation, willfully oblivious to the danger outside of the resorts' walls. Sarah made a dramatic sacrifice in an attempt to save Little Bee's life, but she returned to England without knowing what had happened to Little Bee.
When the novel opens two years later, Little Bee has just been released from an English refugee center. She goes to visit Sarah just as Sarah's husband dies. Sarah and Little Bee decide to help one another move on with their lives. As they do so, the book explores the problems each character faces. Sarah's problems are mostly about relationships and finding meaning in life. How does she navigate her difficult relationship with, and the death of, her husband? How does she parent her son? Can she use her role as a magazine editor to shed light on meaningful issues, or does she need to publish ever more insipid articles to keep her subscribers' attention? Can she make a difference, and does she want to be bothered?
Little Bee too struggles with the questions of how she wants to live her life and what she owes to the people around her, but she also faces more immediate challenges. She's under constant threat of deportation, which would almost certainly lead to her death.
Considering the many interesting themes the book addresses, the actual story is surprisingly tedious. Little Bee and Sarah never seem like real people. Sarah is hard to sympathize with. Little Bee often seems overly wise. The narrator speaks slowly, and moves at a particularly painful snail's pace while giving voice to Little Bee. Unfortunately, that leaves plenty of time for the listener to reflect on the unsatisfying aspects of the book
I am an audio book addict. Love staging the drama in my head, especially psychological intrigue and mysteries.
The author had a great idea but the story had too many cliches and at times unbelievable or poor logic. However, the narration was excellent.
Wow! This story takes you in immediately. The book is about a relationship between Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee that has learned how to talk like the Queen and Sarah, a British magazine editor. So many things happen to Little Bee in this book, both horrible and loving. Not every character in this book is likeable, at times the book gets a little to poignant and a few chapters are hard to read as the horribleness is divulged. The ending is tricky and leaves you filled with hope.
Interesting that this is written by a man, with such strong, almost exclusively female characters. This is a great read. For me, an English women, it was authentic and took me back home to London. His descriptions bring it to life. The depth of each character is what really draws you in, and hearing the same story told from two perspectives. I am left wanting to meet this Little Bee.
The narrator is good, and believable, but more so for Bee than for Sarah.
Although I read in other reviews that the narrator's voice was annoying,I thought the narrator did an excellent job with the voices. I found this to be a very compelling, realistic, but sad story. The author uses such beautiful descriptive language, and the character development, especially of Sara, Little Bee and Charley ("Batman") are excellent. At it's heart, I think it is a story about women--their inner strength, determination and power. But I also think it is a story of forgiveness and love. While there are men in this story, the men are portrayed as weak and selfish, or mean and powerful. I felt there was never a sense of true happiness in this story, but one of searching and living painful things and dealing with unpleasant life experiences. Although at times I thought I could predict how this book would end, the ending was unexpected, realistic and left me feeling sad and resigned. Bittersweet. One of those books you want to keep listening to and characters you think about long after you've finished.
I just didn't get it. This was a highly recommended book club choice. While the story features important issues for our world, it trivializes them with sophomoric writing and shallow characters.There were moments of perception, and even lovely touches of humor, in the end I felt extremely manipulated and disappointed.
This book is an amazing combination of touching personal stories, unique and surprising humour, biting social commentary and a very realistic portrayal of refugee experience in England. I could not wait to listen to each episode and I laughed and cried throughout the book, an experience much enhanced by the narrator's gift for accents and characters. Until now I thought that my top audible favorites were Shantaram and The Help. I have now added Little Bee as an unforgettable and deeply human story about an increasingly pressing question: what will you do when a vulnerable and suffering human being shows up on your doorstep? And between cultures that have nothing in common, where can we meet, find ways to laugh and learn to love?
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