Daniel's Reviews > Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

did not like it
Read in May, 2009

Eleven parts make up the 270+ pages of Chris Cleave's second book, LITTLE BEE, and after finishing part three, I was convinced that I was reading a book that was exactly what the other reviews had said it was: funny, powerful, poetic, moving.

The title character, a Nigerian refugee in England, is a captivating and calmly insightful voice. Not to mention pretty amusing. In her attempt to find safety, she ends up at the door of Sarah, the editor of a fluffy women's magazine. Recently widowed, Sarah and her late husband Andrew have a histor with Little Bee that throws into a tailspin Sarah's normal notions of compassion and charity. Along for the ride is Sarah's four year old son, Charlie, a boy with a penchant for Batman. The two women, Sarah and Little Bee, spend most of the book trying to come to terms with and understand each other.

By the end of part four, I was sick and tired of it. What happens in part four? Well, if you've read the product description here or on the book or elsewhere, you'll know that there is mention of a tantalizingly horrific African beach scene. Said scene is, in fact, horrific, although not the worst I've read.

It also completely and totally deflates the novel.

The basic premise is that we need to do more to save/aid foreign refugees seeking asylum from bloodthirsty corporations/countries. I completely agree with that. This book in no way altered or added to my concern on the topic. It is obviously an illustrated plea, or an attempt to educate, but I found it so melodramatic, it made a mockery of something I already believe srongly about.

In addition to stretching my credulity about a topic that is supposed to be based on fact, the book strained my patience. I am normally an avaricious reader, but I found this book a struggle to get through. Once Little Bee's and Sarah's history was clear, and once it was obvious where the rest of the book was headed, all that was left was to read page after page of Sarah agonizing over her life decisions while her lover stands by as the Voice of Reason (which also happens to be the Voice of Insensivity and Selfishness).

Adding to this was the character of Charlie, with his ridculously cute grammatical errors, so oozing with adorable precociousness I'm surprised he is never described as "tow-headed" or "apple-cheeked." Charlie's mother allows him to wear a Batman costume non-stop for the space of two seasons, even to his father's funeral, although she never thinks to break to him the news that his dad has passed. It seems as if she WANTS Charlie to grow up with serious emotional problems. She certainly doesn't seem to mind putting him in an occasional life-threatening situation.

I just found it labored and patronizing. Little Bee's story is brutal and important, and yet it is filled with eye-rolling cutesiness and an unnecessary amount of predictable padding. Too sweet for this reader. Next time, less honey.
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