Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
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bookshelves: literary-fiction, reviewed

Little Bee
By Chris Cleave

I was persuaded to read this book by the wonderful voice of its protagonist, Little Bee, a sixteen-year-old Nigerian refugee in Britain.
Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead - but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names.

A pound coin can go wherever it thinks it will be safest. It can cross deserts and oceans and leave the sound of gunfire and the bitter smell of burning thatch behind. When it feels warm and secure it will turn around and smile at you. . .Of course, a pound coin can be serious too. It can disguise itself as power, or property, and there is nothing more serious when you are a girl who has neither. You must try to catch the pound, and trap it in your pocket, so that it cannot reach a safe country unless it takes you with it.
The book is all there in the intro; the whimsy, the intelligence, the humor, and the horror lurking underneath.

Little Bee spends an amazing two years (amazing in the sense that anyone could be legally detained for that long) in a British detention center after she flees Nigeria as a stowaway on a tea ship. And because of the way the book is put together, I can’t really say a lot more without spoiling the plot - it is not chronological, and the way the author uses flashbacks is part of the power of the book.

I can say that Little Bee and the British family with whom she is inextricably involved experience the most basic kind of culture clash - it is one of those books that really makes the reader ask herself: “Wow - what would I do in that situation?”

Despite the horror that haunts its pages, Little Bee is an inspiring and life-affirming book.


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Reading Progress

July 28, 2013 – Started Reading
July 28, 2013 – Finished Reading
July 29, 2013 – Shelved
July 29, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed
July 29, 2013 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

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