Friday, July 24, 2009

Little Bee by Chris Cleave - Review

The Other Hand in UK

Fiction 266 pages, Hardcover

Doubleday (2009)



Set alternately in Nigeria and a refugee center in England, Little Bee is not an easy story to read but it is one that needed to be written. A young girl and her sister are a target of the violence that comes with the ruthless corruption in Nigeria. Sarah and Andrew, an English couple on holiday happen upon the girls and attempt to save them from their attackers in an incident that is truly shocking. The remainder of the story takes place two years later in an immigration detention center in England when one of those girls, Little Bee, manages to escape and make her way to the couple's address hoping for help to remain in the country. She claims if she's sent back she will be killed, but who believes that about a 14 year old girl?

The issues of immigration, racism, and deportation are complex. As is the question of how far we are willing to go to help someone who is not one of our own, so to speak. And unresolved feelings around the original incident in Nigeria again threaten to tear Sarah and Andrew apart. One of them wants to help her and the other is terrified for reasons of their own and wants nothing to do with her. I devoured the story in one day, I had to know how it turned out.


It's an eye opener regarding immigration centers, the living conditions therein and the length of time people can languish in them, hoping for asylum. It's a terrible but entirely believable story. It is well written, narrated in alternating voices between Little Bee and the wife Sarah. It is also original and unforgettable. For those who asked Little Bee has more than one brutal moment in it. However, nothing in the book is invented or exaggerated beyond what is actually happening to people. My personal take is always that we need to know what's going on in the world and fiction can be an easier introduction to that than other means. Four and a half stars out of five. I recommend it highly.


Thank you to Doubleday for sending me a lovely hardcover true copy of the book and to the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

Also reviewed by Claire at the view from chesil beach
and Bookworm with a View.



Comments, questions, dissenting opinions, requests for reviews, reading recommendations, or links to reviews are always welcomed. I'd love to read them. No Spoilers please.

17 comments:

  1. I am definitely looking forward to reading this one. I have heard such good things about it.

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  2. I've been intrigued by this book ever since I read the 'non-descriptive' blurb at B&N... definitely have to check this out!

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  3. Hi Sandra, I have an award over at my blog here.

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  4. I finished reading this book yesterday. I loved it. I haven't read such an emotional book for a long time.

    I'm pleased to see that you enjoyed it too.

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  5. I LOVED Little Bee; excellent in every way.

    BTW: DeMille's Gate House was just awful IMO. I generally enjoy his books but not this one.

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  6. I'd love to read this one. I've seen so many good reviews on it.

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  7. It's a good idea for us to expand our knowledge of the realities of the world. Hard as it is to read in a novel, it's certainly the easier way. I'll definitely be picking this one up.

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  8. I definitely need to get this one! You got a hardcopy?! wow! Lucky you :) :)

    Paperback will do for me :D

    I voted for the rating thing. I did like 1 to 5 rating :)

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  9. I just brought this one home the other day from the library. I can't wait to read it now!

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  10. Can't wait to get to this - I have it on audio!

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  11. I'm going to look for this book on audio -- sounds like a must read.

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  12. This sounds like a tough one to read. I agree that this is a story which should be told!

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  13. I bought this a while ago when I saw a discussion of it on Twitter. After your review, I hope I can get to it soon.

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  14. First off, i want to thank you for your comments on My Blog...i am amazed that anyone actually reads the darn thing!

    Second, i love your review of LITTLE BEE. it's been on my Wishlist for a while now, and your thoughts have piqued my interest even further
    J

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  15. I recently purchased this but haven't read it yet. Your review makes me want to get to it...now. Thanks.

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  16. I am wondering what is the matter with me after reading all these awesome reviews..I can't get into this book..will try a little longer.

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  17. Great review! Thanks for linking to my review.

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