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Little Bee: The Ending (warning - spoilers)

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message 1: by Kim (last edited Jun 19, 2010 12:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Benouski okay. There seems to be a lot of controversy about the end. I felt that Little Bee once again sacrificed herself for Charlie, and his removal of the costume was symbolic that he and his mom would survive, but she would not. Others say they're all doomed, and still others find an uplifting ending in there.

What did you think and why?


Kelly I ask everyone who reads the book what they think the ending is all about, and so far it is 50/50 on Charlie and mom surviving vs. all of them dying. I want to believe that Little Bee saved them, but the militants were so vicious that I fear they wouldn't let any Westerners survive to tell the story. I want a happy ending so I'm going to choose to believe in that happy ending even though I think I'm wrong.


message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Benouski I wish i had the book to re-read it. I felt for sure Charlie lived, not so sure about Sarah.


message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Benouski In the author's own words!!!


I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to write a happy ending to this book. I ended up loving the main characters (including Sarah) and wanting them to live happily together. I literally tried it six different ways of doing it, and one of these days I guess I will put up some of the happy endings on my website, because a part of me really wants them to be the ending. But I examined my conscience and I realised I shouldn’t do it. A happy ending to a story like this would have more to do with wish fulfilment or sales pressure than with realism. And I am fully committed to realism in this novel. Ultimately the best I could do was to make the ending ambiguous. It is possible that Little Bee is imprisoned rather than killed, and that she is eventually released (because she is smart and resourceful), and that she will find the happiness which will save them all. (I certainly think that by the end of the novel, Sarah will never be happy unless Little Bee is happy).

As Elaine says, “Sarah did reiterate that she wouldn't give up on Bee, and I wonder if the final scene could be interpreted as a precursor to that. I like to think that it's at least a possibility.”

I just wrote the ending I thought was most realistic - although I tried to make it beautiful as well as ugly.

Soooo . . .I don't think Sarah or Charlie die.


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Benouski Also, as part of that author online group, someone posted the following which he didn't counter.

I also really liked the way it ends full circle: on a beach, just as the story began (must have been a deliberate choice Chris?), but this time Sarah can't save LB and LB has to save Sarah and Charlie (I was worried at one point that they were ALL going to die...).


message 6: by Babs (new)

Babs I thought the ending was awful. It was too ambiguous and did not give forth much hope for anyone. I like to believe that all of the characters lived, but only have hope left for Bee. Would be wonderful to have a sequel( or beequel) with Little Bee alive and well, or sort of well after being captured and subsequently released years later. Perhaps Charlie lives,and she and he meet again in jolly old England once more and he can care for her in her declining years. I'd name it Chubby Old Bee and Batman the Eld.


Julie Right after I read the final line of the story I thought "Why did they go back to that beach?! Why, why, why???!!!" (I do know why, of course, but I just wished they hadn't gone and wanted to curse them for making my heart ache. Although I do still question taking Charlie to that place...)

I do think that Sarah and Charlie lived. On the first visit to the beach, Sarah and Andrew were allowed to leave unharmed (relatively). On the other hand, the soldiers actually shot at a little boy running away. But the soldiers got what they wanted, and there are dozens of witnesses on the beach this time, so I do think Sarah and Charlie were left alone after Little Bee was taken away.

As for Little Bee, I prefer to think that she was put in prison and eventually survived. I hope Chris Cleave does put up a good ending or two, so we can find out how their lives might have played out in the most hopeful scenario.


Rachel Piper I would not have been so annoyed by the ending if it made sense why they would go back to that beach and then--and this is the kicker--FALL ASLEEP there. It didn't seem to match with the characters' actions in the preceding portions of the novel.

Sarah and Little Bee were (rightfully) haunted for 251 pages of the book, and then once they get to Nigeria--the place that would, you might think, be the most tough for them to take--it's all skipping around and walking along the beach and then--what? We're in Nigeria? And they're still VIOLENT here?! The End.


Caroline I agree with Rachel. I can't imagine Little Bee, the survivor, returning to the beach - nor Sarah. A bribe could not ensure their safety.

That said, I loved Little Bee! The ending killed me!


message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 31, 2011 04:53PM) (new)

I was so annoyed with the ending i felt like throwing the book at chris cleeve, such an absurd ending, the story was believable upto that point and the ending ruined the entire book. Why would she even agree to go back to the beach, was also the question that plagued me.


Viola I hated the ending. I started hating it when Little Bee was taken by the police. That in and of itself could have been okay. The ending wasn't necessarily doomed from there. It was really doomed for me when Sarah showed up on the same flight as Little Bee. Then the whole "if I stay with you, nothing bad can happen to you" thing was completely ridiculous.

It's not that I had to have a happy ending, but I didn't see why it had to end the way it did.


message 12: by Sonja (new)

Sonja I thought the book was very interesting and amusing, but mainly depressing, I found myself unable to finish it in time. But after a few struggles and decades, I wa able to pull myself together and finally read through it, personally it's a bit (hate to say it) boring for my taste, the plost doesn't move quick enough. But in some way I like that about it, it's a bit confusing, and hard to understand what I'm saying. But I don't mind the ending really, I think Bee was taken away and Sarah and Charlie were spared. But I don't understand the feelings I have for the ending at the moment, after finishing the book seconds ago. It feels like a good ending, but at the same time it's a bit empty and pale for me. What were they going to do with bee? Kill her, rape her like what they did to her sister? That's what boggles me. But I suppose that's part of the cliff hanger. Still I do wish there was a tad more life in the ending, of course it was beautiful of Bee to reveal her real name and for Charlie to take his bat costume off. But still somehow it feels empty. This probably only refers to me, but if it refers to anyone else I would like to know/hear your opinion about it.


Mandy Petrocelli i didn't mind the ending. yes, it was a bit confusing, but i thought it was pretty clear that Little Bee would be going to prison (or would die, possibly) and that Sarah and Charlie would be spared. the confusing part for me, at least at first, was why Little Bee was so calm about it. and i can only figure that she had proved herself a good person (she sacrificed her life to save Charlie - something she felt guilty about not doing for Andrew), and she thereby paid her debt to Sarah.

but why is the world a better place just because Charlie lives? because he is a symbol of hope? because he will live to fight for asylum-seekers?

i don't know. but i was glad it wasn't all roses and lollipops at the end. "hollywood endings", as i call them, cheapen most great stories. Like Water for Elephants is a good example of this, i think.

just my two cents.


Linda Mandy wrote: "i didn't mind the ending. yes, it was a bit confusing, but i thought it was pretty clear that Little Bee would be going to prison (or would die, possibly) and that Sarah and Charlie would be spare..."

You are so right. The ending is more like life and less like a "hollywood" happy ending, and thus, more believable. This is what makes Chris Cleeve a good writer and not just a gratuitious novelist. Yes, we all like a "good story", but this was telling a real life tale of life today in a third world despotic country. (Sorry for the hyperbole.)


message 15: by Rose (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rose Kim wrote: "In the author's own words!!!


I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to write a happy ending to this book. I ended up loving the main characters (including Sarah) and wanting them to live ha..."


My book club just read this and many were upset about the ending. I would love to send them this author's comment. Can you tell me where you saw this?


message 16: by Rose (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rose Never mind, Kim, I found it at:
http://waterstones.typepad.com/waters...


message 17: by Graham (last edited Jun 13, 2011 03:16PM) (new)

Graham Dunsby I wonder if Bee found a way, from the many she had already considered and planned, to take her own life there on the beach


message 18: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I can't believe anyone would believe that Charlie and Sarah wouldn't survive the end of the book. The whole heartwrenching scene where Little Bee jumps up and grabs Charlie revealing where she is and you know she is going to die in some God awful way. If it just ends with no hope, no reason for her sacrifice, what the fuck was the point of the book?


message 19: by Rose (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rose Sue, read Kim's entry. She found an interview with the author:

In the author's own words!!!


I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to write a happy ending to this book. I ended up loving the main characters (including Sarah) and wanting them to live happily together. I literally tried it six different ways of doing it, and one of these days I guess I will put up some of the happy endings on my website, because a part of me really wants them to be the ending. But I examined my conscience and I realised I shouldn’t do it. A happy ending to a story like this would have more to do with wish fulfilment or sales pressure than with realism. And I am fully committed to realism in this novel. Ultimately the best I could do was to make the ending ambiguous. It is possible that Little Bee is imprisoned rather than killed, and that she is eventually released (because she is smart and resourceful), and that she will find the happiness which will save them all. (I certainly think that by the end of the novel, Sarah will never be happy unless Little Bee is happy).



message 20: by Diane (last edited Jun 15, 2011 12:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane I'm thrilled to find this discussion thread and the words from the author. Like all of you, the ending was not what I wanted. But reading the author's words about the realism of the book, it makes the end more understandable. I wanted LB to live with Sarah and Charlie and have Sarah dump the boyfriend...but I suppose that would have been too hunky-dorey and unrealistic, right? I'd be interested in visiting the author's website when he posts his variances of happy endings.


Santina I thought the ending came too abruptly. One second they were in London searching for Charlie and the next Little Bee was on a plane to Nigeria. It seemed a bit unrealistic if you ask me. Aside from that, the ending was predictable considering the suspense that was upheld throughout the novel. Although I hope the book has an optimistic ending I think Cleave wants us to think otherwise.


message 22: by Mira (new)

Mira Is it possible that the ending didn't actually "happen?" Could it be a dream of Little Bee's? Wouldn't she have noticed Sarah when she first got on the plane? Wasn't it terribly unrealistic for Sarah AND CHARLIE to go to Nigeria with her?


message 23: by Defoor (new)

Defoor I thought Little Bee walked into the ocean, killing herself, finally at peace. Her laughter louder than the waves. She spent the whole book finding ways to kill herself at the right moment. Wasnt this the right moment?


Kelly I need to go back and read that ending again. Defoor, this is an interesting analysis.


Susan I think that Sarah's going back to the beach showed that she thought she, as a white European, was immune and above the violence that occurred among black Africans. She also thought, that being a white European, she had the power to save Little Bee, a black African. Little Bee removing Charlie's Batman costume showed that white Europeans do not have superpowers, and they had better learn that because they are not immune to the violence any more.


Chiara I took it as an ambiguous ending since the beginning "hoping" everybody would survive although in the pain of separation. I think the author wanted to give the hope LB would be released and go back to her own world, where she belonged to. I really loved this book (apart from War & Peace, the best book I read in 2009)!


Phillip Cushman Life is unfortunately not always happy and perhaps too frequently it is unhappy. Books should mirror life in that sense, I think, and I would hate to read only books with happy endings. One of my favorite other reads was Cutting for Stone where for the last twenty pages or so I read a few paragraphs, cried for a while, read a few more paragraphs and cried some more. I love books that reflect real life.


Sandie Seth While I agree tnat life not always happy, the news supplies enough sadness for me to last a lifetime. I can't put my finger on exactly what bothers me about it. That, in itself, may be the point.


message 29: by Katie (last edited Feb 06, 2012 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Katie I absolutely hated the ending. The book itself was fantastic, but the ending left me with no closure. I can picture 6 different ways for it to end, but it just ended with no one knowing what in the hell happened. I read this book almost a year ago and I still find it annoying that the author didn't give it an ending. I have thought about it being a dream, that the ending wasn't real, however; that still leaves it without an ending. The only other thing I can think of is that Charlie & Sarah are imprisoned, someone has to come and rescue them, and Little Bee is murdered. Just a sad, sad story all the way around. I am not sure why they had to go back to the beach in the first place...


message 30: by Gail (new)

Gail Williams AT the first part of the book Little Bee says:
In a few breaths' time I will speak sad words to you. But you must hear then the same we have agreed to see sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means , this story teller is still alive.
This says to me that she is well and telling the story after it all happened,as Sarah is also. They are alive and doing well.
Not sure if that is the reason Little Bee says what she does, if that is what the author intended for it to mean, but that is my take on it. I assume that would mean Charlie is fine too.


Melinda Kim wrote: "I wish i had the book to re-read it. I felt for sure Charlie lived, not so sure about Sarah."

The entire book is available online free here: http://www.onread.com/book/Little-Bee...

Just close out the ads and the book is in the background :) That's how I read it.


message 32: by Ally (new)

Ally I was loving the book. I liked how it explored how not everyone is necessarily a "goody" or a "baddy", that sometimes it's more complicated than that. But I HATED the ending. However, I think Sarah and Charlie must survive. When Sarah is talking earlier in the book, she seems to refer to the year her son dressed as Batman all summer - how they were all trying to escape something...as if he doesn't dress like Batman anymore and is older now. Even later in the book she mentions how it's difficult to talk about the time Charlie disappears by the Thames - "even now". I just finished it and am paraphrasing but I think you have to deduce she survives. I'm not as sure about Little Bee. But everything about the book got worse after they got back to Nigeria. It became very unrealistic. They weren't scared enough. I don't know, it almost seemed like he was rushing to finish the book and it took a lot away from the overall reading experience for me. Bee became really selfish, they had to go to the beach for her - no they didn't. It put everyone at risk. And it didn't explore deep emotions for her about her sister at the beach, she just fell asleep. And had a really selfish dream no less, about Sarah and Charlie living in her country with her. And making Lawrence the bad guy. Like she wanted Sarah to only need her. I don't know, the way he wrote Bee towards the end, I didn't like as much. I did really like all the characters, particularly Sarah. Perhaps because I could completely identify with her crisis of conscience over her suburbia lifestyle and inability to escape it.


Leslie Little Bee ending : With Little Bee's last words on the page, I did not want to believe she was gone- you know what I mean? I was puzzled and cried for more words from--> Little Bee and only then I got the image of the ocean and the sound of the waves- that she is really gone? A very brave young girl.

Then I remembered Charlie whom I came to adore and felt real worried for Sarah down the beach alone far away from Charlie. He was free and playing with the other children in the water safe away from the armed soldiers. I truly believe Mom and son- Sarah and Charlie survived. I want to believe it.

Many thanks for this discussion, I will read the ones I missed.


message 34: by Yona (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yona I think that ambiguous endings piss people off when they're looking for a story. I see it as an invitation to think and ponder. It forces you into it. It's much harder.

I think Charlie and Sarah survived. I don't think that was the easier option, especially not for Sarah who will have to explain what happened to herself, to Lawrence, and to Charlie forever.


Denise I also felt that Little Bee drowned herself at the end of the book. The sound of the ocean was what made me believe this.


message 36: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Kim wrote: "Also, as part of that author online group, someone posted the following which he didn't counter.

I also really liked the way it ends full circle: on a beach, just as the story began (must have bee..."


I just couldn't believe that they would return to the beach. It did not seem realistic to me after the original beach scene. I think they would have stayed far away from there.


Sheila The ending i was not fond of. But then again it seemed like real life, and not some Happyly Ever After non sence taht never happends.


Lenore Spitznagel Is it possible that in revealing that Charlie is a white child, they could all be saved? In essence, he was the super hero who saved the day.

I still didn't like the ending. However, I have to think that all the Batman and Superhero prattle had to have some purpose.


Sarah Pearce I would like to think that Charlie and Sarah were spared. Although it was a terribly sad ending, I don't see there could have been any other realistic way - and it was perfectly clear throughout that it wasn't going to be a fairytale.
Little Bee did not fear death. In fact, she expected it a lot sooner than it came. The thing that made the ending uplifting for me, was that Little Bee was happy. I feel sure that she died and knew she was going to die but it didn't matter to her, because she believed that Charlie and Sarah would be okay - completely selfless.


Kenny Mitchell Since Little Bee ends with the Officer's hand on her shoulder & with Little Bee telling the story in the first place, it's naturally assumed that she was not killed nor killed herself (in the ocean) but lived to tell the story at a later time. Since Sarah swore she would not give up on Little Bee, it's assumed (again) that she fought to have her eventually released. I think they are all okay with Charlie growing up to be a normal kid & Little Bee picking up the threads of her life with Sarah lovingly at her side.


message 41: by Kate (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kate Diffley I don't understand why they went back to the same beach


Kenny Mitchell To say goodbye to her sister.


message 43: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Morphett I didn't expect a positive ending, but to be so ambiguous in the outcomes for Charlie, Sarah and little Bee is just frustrating. To stay at the beach is naive of Sarah and put them all at risk, let alone going to the south at all for a prolonged period of time. Annoying ending but otherwise awesome book.


Susan I do not think that this was meant to be a realistic book, but an allegory. Little Bee was Black Africa, Sarah was White Europe. Little Bee was sacrified in the end.


message 45: by Mai (new)

Mai Mustaphanin I give the writer his credit, for writing in a women's voices, Nigerian, African Caribean, I give credit to the wisdom and reflective narrations. But I invested time and stole moments out of my rest hours to read this. If I want realistic...I just go to work amongst the real Little Bees!


message 46: by Chaitra (new) - added it

Chaitra Well definitely the ending is not a clear one and it fall upon the reader to assume the next. Every one can have a different opinion about it. But looking upon the narration I think they all survived and the most plausible explanation would be that they would arrest little bee and lock her up. Then Sarah would have finished the book that Andrew started and definitely the book would have got huge media attention and there would be a movement of some sort for justice to the asylum seekers and eventually they would have released little bee. But since she mentions it to be a sad story I can assume that she was not allowed to go to back to Sarah to England but she has to stay in Nigeria... Alone. And hence she is narrating this story after all these events.


Marilyn Saul I must be the only person who wishes Sarah had been shot on the beach at the end. Everything Sarah did in the entire book was for her own self-interest: emasculating Andrew by chopping off her own finger; dragging Little Bee to trigger areas that would only magnify Little Bee's terror; usurping writing the book that Andrew had envisioned, so she could be the heroine, and, for heaven's sake, taking the three of them to the beach. She absolutely NEVER understood the horror Little Bee had been through and just continued her own path of wanton destruction of lives. She could better have spent her time trying to find out how she could adopt Little Bee and take her back to England.


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