Kathie's Reviews > Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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Sep 02, 2010

it was ok
Read from August 13 to 19, 2010

The story is told in two voices. Little Bee is a young Nigerian girl in a refugee detention center in the Great Britain. Her voice is poetic and sometimes her childlike quality of reasoning is humorous as she thinks of how she would explain the world outside her village to her friends back home. The reader learns that Little Bee’s family and village live on land rich with oil deposits and the oil company stops at nothing to obtain the land. Little Bee tells us of the things she does to call attention to herself and that in every situation and location she is thinking of a way to commit suicide if “the men come” again.

The other voice is that of Sarah O’Rourke, the wife of Andrew, mother of a 3-year-old son, and magazine editor from Great Britain. A brutal incident on a beach in Nigeria brings Sarah, her husband, Little Bee and her sister together on the beach one afternoon but the reader does not learn what happened on the beach until later in the story. Unbeknownst to Sarah and her husband, Little Bee leaves Nigeria and seeks them out in their home in the Great Britain.

The story begins with Little Bee being released after a two year stay in a detention center. She and the three other women released at the same time are uncertain of why they were released, still do not have the proper immigration papers and are unprepared to live in the unfamiliar country. The first chapters of the book are captivating as the author describes the four women and the cultural shock they endure upon release. Unfortunately, the author abandons the other three well developed characters when Little Bee sets out on her own.

There are a lot of implausible events in the story but the most disturbing part for this reader was the author’s shift to a whole different writing style after Laurence, Sarah’s married lover, shows up at Sarah’s house after her husband’s funeral. What mother would allow her three-year-old to wear a Batman costume with mask all the time and indulge him by purchasing a second costume for him to wear while she launders one and allow him to only answer to the name of Batman instead of Charlie? Is it possible that while in the detention center Little Bee teaches herself English from newspapers? What family would take a vacation in a war torn area of the world and ignore the requests of the hotel to stay within their walls?

It is a story with a message about politics, immigration, refugees, tragedies, and the struggles in Little Bee’s old world and the new. For me the ending fizzled. I reread it trying to make some sense of it but it seemed the author just got tired of writing. I wish the story had a better ending and had been told entirely by Little Bee, the most vivid character.
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08/22/2010 page 207
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Jenny I agree about the ending! I just finished and I am sad that he just seemed to stop!


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