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)
Perhaps the fact that exposing the political impotency of a world superpower (GB) makes people sit up and pay attention...however, the book was dark, depressing, and left the heroine helpless. If there is a secret, it's that this treatment of whole villages still goes on today in all corners of the world, where natural resources are extracted at the cost of human life.
This is a bit of a British disappointment....you get really engrossed and then the ending falls apart. The story and characters are believable, but there doesn't seem to be any resolution for anyone. And the author starts to repeat himself....they looked at each other for a very long time, after a long time, etc, etc, etc. I think maybe Cleave was told to finish in a hurry....he really didn't think it through. Again, as with so many of the books I've listened to, I say, where are the editors? Who reads these books before they are published and polishes them? I think Cleave should have re read his work for a very long time.
I found the labored pronunciation of African English tiring to listen to, even though it was appropriate to the character. I accidentally bought the book in written format, so resorted to reading it, and found it much more enjoyable that way.
I found the two weeks that I was listening to this very dark and depressing due to it's extremely honest accounts of the issues of immigration for refugees from Africa. If you like political reads that end you closing the book and asking yourself, "what can I do to help make this issue" better than it's for you. But, if books or movies can bring you down easily, I would probably pick a lighter read.
I couldnt even get through ten minutes of this book. The narrator was horrible, as was the sound quality. I'm glad I bought it on sale, and didnt waste a credit. I have a lot of books available to me through Librivox, with similar quality narration, and those are free.
This book is very well written but the subject matter is quite depressing and heavy. Not for the faint of heart although it is heartfelt.
This is one book for which I wish you could give a half star. Not the most amazing work of fiction, but it worked well as an audiobook, with good narration. Touches of 'Lucy' by Jamaica Kincaid in some of the earlier sections, but nowhere near the literary merit. Worth listening though.
This is a really good book that holds your interest, however, it is always disappointing when an author leaves you wondering what happens to a character that you've become invested in learning about. Though some might think it cleaver, it feels like a cop out to put the responsibility on the reader to put their own interpretation on the ending. Sometimes that works. In this case it was really frustrating to the point that I wished I hadn't spent the time reading it.
The subject matter is bold and important. The female characters are wonderfully detailed and believable. But there's not a fully decent man in the entire book. And the writing and plot points are sometimes overwrought and unbelievable. The biggest problem, however, is the ending. I WONT' GIVE ANY PLOT POINTS AWAY--but while the author allows SOME of the dramatically necessary conclusion, she undercuts it with a fully un-believable set of reflections by one of the characters. And the utter selfishness and idiocy of another which leads to the conclusion goes un-remarked.
No I wouldn't recommend to a friend. Too slow.
The performance of Anne Flosnik really gave the characters life and made it easier to get to the end.
Made me wonder what the heck was the mom doing at the end? Where'd she go?
Listened to for book club. Stuck with me a while not a bad book. Just not something I would not usually go for.
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