Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee. We meet her, in a narrative related in her own, unique voice, as she is leaving the British detention center where she's spent the last two years. Little Bee is sixteen years old and has seen and endured far more than any person should in an entire life, let alone in sixteen short years. Not only has she lost her family to rape and violence, she watched it happen as the small village she'd grown up in was ravaged by oil company goons. Little Bee has come to England seeking the only other people she knows in the world, a British couple she'd met on a Nigerian beach just as her world was being blown into pieces.


Sarah is a recent widow, the mother of a four year old who won't take off his Batman costume, and the female half of the couple Little Bee met in Nigeria. Sarah is the editor of a glossy women's magazine, sophisticated and well-groomed. Needless to say, Sarah's problems are somewhat different from Little Bee's.


In fact, Little Bee and Sarah are as different as can be. Little Bee is pragmatic, too aware of the out and out evil the world can deliver to the innocent to have any more illusions. Sarah is idealistic, wanting to make the world a better place but so entrenched in her suburban comfort that she doesn't know how to do it. When the two women come together again they complement each other.


Little Bee is a beautiful novel. It is engaging, uplifting, and deeply, deeply sad. Each of the women tells her story in her own voice, in alternating chapters; Chris Cleave conveys these voices flawlessly, almost as though he's transcribing their stories rather than creating them.


Now reading: A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist




Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.  I am, however, an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you make a purchase from Amazon after clicking through a link on my site--even if you don't buy a title to which I've linked!--I will receive a small commission.

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