Michelle's Reviews > Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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's review
Feb 26, 2009

did not like it
Read in March, 2009

I wanted to like Little Bee. The reviews for it are exceptional. Book List starred it, Amazon named it among their “February Best of the Month” picks, O Magazine fondly mentions it. I mean come on, Library Journal labels it “the next Kite Runner” for goodness sakes! I couldn’t wait to be swept away. And I was… for the first couple of chapters. Little Bee’s character came on very strong and distinct. I felt like I could pick her out of a crowd and guess what she was thinking. But I gradually started rolling my eyes and questioning plot details and characterization.

For example, Sarah’s mom and sister are briefly mentioned; they come to her house after the funeral, but she begs them to leave her alone. There’s no mention of their reaction to the fact that there is suddenly a Nigerian girl living at her house. ???

Also, according to the timeline description it seems that Charlie begins wearing the Batman costume before his father passes. It would make more sense if he began wearing it after the passing based on his reasons for wearing it. ???

And seriously, the cops caught Little Bee because she was at the scene of Charlie’s near disappearance? Seriously?

Sarah’s relationship with Lawrence is odd, Charlie draws conclusions unbelieving for a four year old, and the ending is rushed and unmoving. There’s just this hokey feel to it that I couldn’t get past.

This is the first time ever for me that I could tell that the author was not the same sex as his main characters, more so when it came to Sarah rather than Little Bee. The way Sarah thinks, the things she says, her observations, and even her interactions with her son just don’t make sense. It is clear that Cleave failed to unearth his female voice.

Speaking of voice, Little Bee’s chapters were much more convincing and enjoyable than Sarah’s. The entire book written from Little Bee’s point of view would have probably been a much better read.

I’m not giving this book only 1 star because it was too sad, or too graphic, or too haunting. It just fell flat. It wasn’t convincing. All the ends didn’t meet nor were all the i’s dotted, t’s crossed. It just didn’t do it for me, and it is most certainly NOT the next Kite Runner. Good grief, it doesn’t even compare.
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Reading Progress

02/07/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 114) (114 new)

Stefanie Agree entirely!

Lisa Lawless Thank you. I completely agree with your opinions about the book. Sarah's decision-making was clearly senseless in the way a man would think that process would be.

Tonya Agree totally with your review. I felt the ending was very weak. The whole day trip to London, missing child, police picking up Little Bee was not developed. When Sarah and Charlie show up on the same plane Little Bee is being deported on, the story becomes quite unbelievable.

Amber Goulet Okay, I noticed all the points you mentioned and somehow (possibly due to the strength of Little Bee's character) I got past them and I was immersed in the book. I especially agree that Sarah was less convincing at times.

I thought that the reason Charlie wore his costume before Andrew died was that Andrew was described as showing symptoms of severe depression. So as Charlie saw this worsen he took to the cape. Plus, to me that tied in with the several times Little Bee notes forms of living death.

It wasn't perfect, but I thought it was worth reading. It connected me with an immigration story, and I'm happy for it.

message 5: by Erin (new) - rated it 1 star

Erin Me too! About 2/3 of the way through the book I found myself wondering what the book was even about!

Stephanie I agree with you completely...I just kept waiting for the book to deliver what was promised through reviews and the cover. It just fell flat for me.

Lisa My sister and both just finished the book and couldn't agree more.

message 8: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette I agree with everything you said. I thoght the ending was so rushed. No closure. He really didn't get the female side of Sara. Aside from a few cute comments about the queen, I didn't find ANYTHING funny about this book. It's like the author has a gift of writing but doesn't get it all together.

Katie Dorsch I completely agree with your review. I am supposed to love this book and am about 60 pages from the end and just can't believe any of it. I don't think the characters actually show any depth and leave me wanting something more.

message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim So wanted to like this book. I picked up at a grocery store while casually doing my shopping. The cover had me from minute one. It has a strong beginning, but slowly fizzles. One positive: the son and his alter ego Batman. What a creative storyline. At least something flies in this novel. Little Bee didn't.

Leanna I agree with you completely. I would have liked it much better if it were written from Little Bee's perspective.

Diana Great comments Michelle....totally agree with you. I had a few more frustrations with plot that I mention in my review. Could have been a great book had the author been more in touch with a realistic female view.

Lesley I was trying to put into words what bothered me about this book and you hit the nail on the head! Great review, I couldn't agree more.

message 14: by Erica (last edited Jun 29, 2010 09:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erica Poole I can't say that I agree, I loved this book. As for Charlie's wearing of the costume, kids do that. They just do, and the reason he keeps wearing it is explained towards the end. Otherwise, to each their own, but might I suggest that you indicate early on that your review has a LOT of spoilers? I would be disappointed had I read this before the book...just a suggestion.

message 15: by Lita (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lita Thanks for writing down what I was thinking!

Humphreydunn Agree totally. Wish I could have given it minus stars. I feel I was conned into reading it by the publisher's hype.

Carolyn Thank You! I completely agree entirely with your review! It ended up being such a lame book...I too, was so surprised at all of the good reviews. Things just didn't make sense in the novel. OK, like, who the heck would revisit the place where they experienced one of the most intense experiences of their life, AND bring their son with them! GIVE ME A BREAK...love it how he went about playing after he was shot at too! What the heck?

message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kim Others have already said it and I find myself agreeing with them. You pinpointed exactly what bothered me about this book. Not the violence, not the subject matter, but the way the author combined the storylines into a completely unrealistic ending. Who CARES about the boyfriend? He wasn't even important. WHY did Little Bee need to get caught up in Andrew's story at the end (don't want to give anything away). The highlights for me were the Jamaican Girl in the Detention Center and Charlie. Those two characters were the most creative and believable, their voices the most realistic. This story was very readable and fast-paced, just don't expect a good ending because it won't be forthcoming.

Keisha Erica wrote: "I can't say that I agree, I loved this book. As for Charlie's wearing of the costume, kids do that. They just do, and the reason he keeps wearing it is explained towards the end. Otherwise, to each..."

I agree. The author mentions at the end of the book that Charlie was based on his own 4-year old son who would only answer to Batman. It's about little kids learning about identity and their place in the world.
One doesn't need a traumatizing event to occur to be prompted to seek an identity.

Alicia B. Spot on review! "Flat" is the perfect word for this book.

Chris I am right there with you. My thoughts exactly.

message 22: by Tina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina Doesn't even come close to the kite runner! This story is way too contrived even though we know
It is clearly written to draw attention to what really happens in Africa.

message 23: by Sherry (new)

Sherry Katie wrote: "I completely agree with your review. I am supposed to love this book and am about 60 pages from the end and just can't believe any of it. I don't think the characters actually show any depth and ..."

Kim wrote: "So wanted to like this book. I picked up at a grocery store while casually doing my shopping. The cover had me from minute one. It has a strong beginning, but slowly fizzles. One positive: the ..."

Your quick assessment, followed by the sarcastic humor, made me laugh aloud!

Rachel Oh my goodness, do people compare this book to The Kite Runner??? That is insane. Your review is spot on, and you managed to put it much nicer than I did mine... Thanks for a great review!

Courtney This review is dead-on with my feelings towards this book. I did want to like it - I still have to talk about the book with my book club in a few weeks. The beginning of this book came on strong and I liked Little Bee's 'voice.' But then it just went downhill. I couldn't wait to get through with it because it just made no sense. All the decisions Sarah made throughout the book were just incredibly stupid. And then to just quit her job and at the end of the book take her small child with her to Nigeria, the place where the 'beach scene' took place and police carry machine guns? Come on... I just couldn't feel much of anything towards these characters and their situations. Maybe if it was written by someone else, it all felt very 'flat' to me.

message 26: by Florida (new)

Florida I agree with everything you said. It was so contrived. She was deported in like a day. Then they are on the same plane!!! In addition, I found the initial set of circumstances not convincing. First, how stupid were Andrew and Sarah to be walking on the beach in the first place?!? Then the guard comes and tells them to go back and they refuse? Then the guard is killed but I guess he was a throw-away character. No one seemed to care about him or that he died. He, no doubt, had a family and he died because of their stupidity. At least the men had a reason for pursuing Little Bee and her sister. The guard was totally innocent.
I found this book very unconvincing. Kind of book written to be a movie.

Bethany I agree whole heartedly I really wanted to like the book, and it has nothing to do with the graphic nature of the book but some of it just seems like the author tried too hard.

message 28: by Kris (new) - rated it 1 star

Kris This review says it, I agree. Little Bee should have been the sole narrator. She had an incredible, important story to tell, and it would've made a greater impact on me had it been told in her voice alone. Sarah's chapters were annoying interruptions. Even though Batman was interesting, his family's story (and all the unnecessary details) were a distraction. I would've preferred to learn more about Little Bee's world, to be immersed into her history/country/culture. The story felt disjointed, pieces lacking or thrown together... it felt I wasn't given the chance to go beyond the surface.

Though Little Bee's chapters were compelling, the rest felt trifle. What started off promising, culminated into something quite haphazard. So I gave this a 1 also to express my disappointment at what was a sorely missed opportunity to tell a truly amazing story.

Georgia Taylor I am in the middle of reading this and started reading your review. This is a spoiler review. Please mark it as such.

Karen Stock I agree with Stephanie. the reviews of the book make it appear as AMAZING and it wasn't as good as the hype! I did enjoy it but wasn't the best book \i ever read

message 31: by Erin (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin i so agree with you! I was disappointed and can't wait to give the book back. The characters were flat and when it was all done I found myself saying oh, ok.

Britney I agree! I kept waiting to love it and I never did. It is one of only a select few books that I can actually say I hate.

Heleen I wrote a comment and then deleted it on accident. It's rare for me to review abook and then read stranger's reviews, but you so effectively summarized many reasons why I didn't like it.

Allidavmar Wanted to like it. It had so much potential. Everything just fell short, the author did not take the details far enough. I guess I just did not care for the writing style at all.

message 35: by Carol (new) - rated it 1 star

Carol Drufke-Zeller Good review! You made me think even more about my own. I could not stop find reasons to not like it and find it unbelievable.

message 36: by Alice (new)

Alice Thank you for a clear and thorough review. My friend and I were considering it for out book club, mainly because...ok, I'll admit it...the cover is so darned interesting, but even a beautiful cover won't keep me reading.

Corrie How I wish I had read your review before I wasted my time and read this book. Couldn't agree with you more.

message 38: by Christina (new) - added it

Christina Sheets I'm only halfway through this book and I might stop here. I'm having the same issues with the writing as this reviewer. Plus, the cheap attempt at pulling heart strings by making the horrors of war the subtext is both insulting and revolting. I was going to finish it, in hopes that Cleave would redeem himself, but given the above comments, I think I'm all set.

Leslie I completely agree with your comments but overall, I still enjoyed the book.

Emily Dupree I did enjoy the book very much and it was a quick read for me but after reading your review i see you are right. A few of those things went right over my head but now I'm thinking back and realizing it didn't add up or never followed through with certain parts of the story. No one questioned why she had a Nigerian girl with her at the funeral! That is odd. I still love the book and obviously I missed those things because I was so engrossed with Little Bee's story but things could have been more developed. You are right about that.

AyaSuu Completely agree. Neither Sarah nor Little Bee were fully developed. I don't get Sarah at all - why did she stay with Andrew and cheat on him at the same time, knowing how much it hurts him? If she were that smart and independent, why didn't she try to get him to take help? Why didn't she get help for herself? Why did she stay with Lawrence? And why the hell would a woman who cut off her own finger to save somebody's life not have enough courage to publish serious storys instead of stupid sex and gossip storys in her very own magazine? I don't get it. But what I found most annoying and came totally out of nothing was that Little Bee was actually present at Andrew's death. I mean: really? It destroyed her continuity and made her one bad, selfish character. Not ambiguous, but just plain selfish and a liar. The book started out strong and got worse, but from that point on, I knew it was just bad.

Erica Agree totally. The book generally left me flat after the first three chapters and the ending was, frankly, a copout.

Kolby Agreed on all points.

Molly C I completely agree! Someone told me I wasn't going to enjoy the book because it is 'disturbing'. I just didn't like it because it was bad (& I didn't find it that disturbing).

message 45: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa What an accurate review. I feel exactly the same. I think the author must know people in high places because this book is a major disappointment. It certainly doesn't deliver what it promises. I found myself questioning the plot and the direction of the storyline. Did not enjoy it at all.

Stacey Totally agree with your review - if you wouldn't have written it, I probably would have myself. I don't think it was horrible enough to give it one star, but after chapter 2 I was thinking to myself, um, what is going on here!

message 47: by Margo (new) - rated it 1 star

Margo Well said. I read half of it and could torture myself no longer.

Jennifer Lane I just finished this novel and liked it more than you did, but I also had the same question about the reason Charlie started wearing his Batman costume not jiving with the timeline. I also agree that Little Bee's chapters were more compelling. Interesting point about the gender of the author.

message 49: by Vixb (new) - added it

Vixb Oy. I don't feel bad about my choice to set this book aside for a while. I just was not feeling it.

message 50: by Kristin (last edited Oct 21, 2011 06:49AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars


I agree with you that the book would have been better if Little Bee had narrated the whole thing. I don't think Sarah's character was particularly likeable--nor was it well-developed. However, the book did explain the cape situation and the timeline was not off. He was already wearing it at home prior to Andrew's death, but when Andrew died he wasn't wearing it because he was at nursery school. After that he absolutely wouldn't take it off.

Also, Little Bee wasn't caught because she was a bystander, she was caught because she was the person who called in the report.

While it seems I liked it a bit better than you did, I definitely didn't think it lived up to the hype.

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