Sarah Ryburn's Reviews > Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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Mar 28, 11

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction
Read from February 23 to March 26, 2011

this was our march book club selection. it reads quickly and easily enough, but the characters just aren't interesting or engaging. i didn't like sarah at all; her character strikes me as static and uninteresting. does cleave perceive women generally as flighty and confused or is it motherhood mixed with infidelity, wealth, and a shallow, unsatifying career that renders sarah contemptible? "i love being me; no, wait, this career is a joke; no, wait, i can still change the world; sorry, forgot that charlie is my world..." insipid and nauseating. she has the determination and strength of purpose to cut off her own finger to save someone else's life but afterward feels perfectly content to pretend it never happened. content actually to lie to friends and co-workers about how it happened. the more i think about it, the more i believe she cut off her finger to spite her husband rather than to save little bee. this seems in keeping with sarah's self-assessment of her marriage; she married andrew because her mother begged her not to marry him. she is like chaff blown about by the wind, living life as a reaction to the will and demands of others.

lawrence seems equally despicable; he plays the "honest self-deprication" game a dozen too many times, and his barbs quickly morph from charming to loathesome and self-hating. lawrence presents as an irritating mass of contradictions; he may verbalize self-loathing, but his actions throughout the book indicate that he feels quite entitled to whatever makes him happy. the charlie/batman dualism also annoys me, but at least this one character holds a clearly defined sense of self.

finally little bee herself reads abjectly as chris cleave; authorial voice notwithstanding, i just don't buy her as a refugee. two years in a detention center would clearly make one an expert in detention centers, but little bee appears far too savvy about british culture and government and global economies to be credible. i'll skip over the ridiculously problematic plot twist of sarah's return to nigeria with her four year-old child in tow...!?!!? nevermind also the utter glorification of sarah and lawrences infidelity. i'll stick with my character sketches and say that, en balance, the story reads less as the personal narrative of either sarah or little bee and too much like the socio-economic-political agenda vehicle of its author. verdict: cardboard cut-outs of human beings set against a cardboard landscape.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Emily (new)

Emily We read that for our book club in January.


Sarah Ryburn it's ours for march. what did you think?


message 3: by Emily (new)

Emily It was okay. I don't think any of us were crazy about it. Some of the characters were just not believable. We also wondered how much of the immigration aspects were true.
We are reading Unbroken for this next month, and I have heard great things about it. We were voting between that and A Prayer for Owen Meany. Have you read that one?


Sarah Ryburn nope, neither. not sure that i'm familiar with unbroken. who is the author?


message 5: by Emily (new)

Emily Laura Hillenbrand, author of Sea Biscuit, wrote Unbroken. It's very new. John Irving is the author of the other (Cider House Rules). You might enjoy both. The latter was more of a "literary" novel according to a friend's husband.


Sarah Ryburn i have a copy of owen meany, but i've never had the motivation to get through it. so many books, so little time... :(


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