Monday, February 23, 2009

Little Bee

LITTLE BEE; Chris Cleave; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009; 266 pgs. Fiction

One of's Best New Books/February, Chris Cleave's Little Bee is a beautiful,
horrific story of a refugee Nigerian girl trying to find sanctuary and peace in England. Caught as a stowaway on a cargo ship, she is held in detention for two years and our story begins on the day she will be released, without documentation, to fend for herself. Most of the girls leaving detention have no place to go, but Little Bee has a contact--a husband and wife she met on the
beach in Nigeria. Succeeding chapters alternate between Little Bee's voice and the voice of
Sarah O'Rourke, the woman of the beach encounter. Little Bee arrives just in time for the husband's funeral, and becomes a surpisingly welcome but occasionally uneasy part of the household until events accelerate in an unexpected direction. The flyleaf at the beginning of the
book warns readers who wish to share the book not to tell what happens, and I won't, but Little Bee is a memorable character, the horrors of her experiences hinted at by the fact that in any new situation she immediately identifies ways to kill herself "in case the men come." With her beautiful voice and her wretched circumstances, Little Bee stands proxy in this book for the thousands of women whose lives are made bitter beyond belief by the coming of the men, lawless and inhuman.


1 comment:

Drew said...

From the second page I was enamored with Cleave's writing style, full of sparkling witticisms and pithy observations as he delves into the minds of characters like Little Bee. Wildly imaginative and sassy, Little Bee's voice shines most as she invents funny situations and responds to them; for example, she imagines that the Queen of England on the British pound coin she holds in her hand demands that she "Put me down this minute, young lady, or I shall call my guards" (2). While I found the novel's other narrator, Sarah, to be less personable, the character of Little Bee more than compensated and truly brought the life and joy to this book.