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Little Beeby Chris Cleave
"Little Bee deserves a warning label: 'Do not judge this book by its cover. Contents under pressure.' Despite the cutesy title (the book was more sensibly published in Britain as The Other Hand) and the coy book-flap description ('It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it'), Little Bee will blow you away." Sarah L. Courteau, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
Synopses & Reviews
We don't want to tell you too much about this book!
It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.
Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:
It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.
The story starts there, but the book doesn't.
And it's what happens afterward that is most important.
Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.
"Little Bee" deserves a warning label: "Do not judge this book by its cover. Contents under pressure." Despite the cutesy title (the book was more sensibly published in Britain as "The Other Hand") and the coy book-flap description ("It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it"), "Little Bee" will blow you away. Like Ian McEwan's propulsive novel "Enduring Love,"... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) in which a fatal hot-air balloon accident binds together two strangers who witness it, "Little Bee," by Guardian columnist Chris Cleave, hinges on a single horrific encounter. On a beach in Nigeria, the lives of Little Bee, a teenager from a small village, and Sarah O'Rourke, editor of a posh British women's magazine, are brought into brutal conjunction. Little Bee and her older sister have the misfortune to live on valuable Nigerian oil deposits, for which their family pays a deadly price. Sarah and her husband, heedless tourists out for a walk in the sand, are confronted in an instant with a choice: Save the girls at great personal cost or ignore them. Though the scene doesn't come until later in the book, it casts a queasy spell over the novel from the beginning, which finds Little Bee in a casually dehumanizing British immigrant detention center two years later. She's plotting her suicide if "the men" ever come for her again. (Her Nigerian enemies and the interests they work for are never explicitly identified because Little Bee herself understands only that they were paid to remove her people.) Little Bee is a young woman with a past so damaging that it seems to negate the possibility of a future, but her tensile stubbornness keeps her going. "Take it from me," she says at the outset, "a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived." Her very name is a mechanism for survival: On the run from their pursuers after the rest of their village was destroyed, she and her sister plucked new names from the air to replace their true ones, "which spoke so loudly of their tribe and of their region." Little Bee has taught herself English from newspapers during her detainment, but her reference points are still in Nigeria. The voice Cleave has created for her illustrates the forcible dislocations of a globalized world. Sarah, meanwhile, has a life that invites envy: a whip-smart husband, an adorable son, a satisfying adulterous affair and a glamorous career; the full story is more complex, though, and Cleave gives it to us with unpitying sympathy. When Sarah's husband spirals into depression after their crisis on the Nigerian beach and commits suicide, Sarah is left to reckon with her own moral culpability and a bereft 3-year-old. Then Little Bee, for whom she feels a powerful and naive responsibility, appears at her door, sprung under dubious circumstances from the detention facility. In restrained, diamond-hard prose, Cleave alternates between these two characters' points of view as he pulls the threads of their dark — but often funny — story tight. What unfolds between them in a few short weeks as they struggle to right worlds turned upside down is both surprising and inevitable, thoroughly satisfying if also heart-rending. Nearly four years ago Cleave's first novel, "Incendiary," about an al-Qaeda bomb attack at a London soccer match, was published in Britain on the very day that suicide bombers killed 52 people in London's transit system. This gruesome coincidence called into question whether Cleave's talent was responsible for the attention the novel received. "Little Bee" leaves little doubt that Cleave deserves the praise. He has carved two indelible characters whose choices in even the most straitened circumstances permit them dignity — if they are willing to sacrifice for it. "Little Bee" is the best kind of political novel: You're almost entirely unaware of its politics because the book doesn't deal in abstractions but in human beings. Reviewed by Sarah L. Courteau, who is the literary editor of the Wilson Quarterly, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Book clubs in search of the next Kite Runner need look no further than this astonishing, flawless novel....A tension-filled dramatic ending and plenty of moral dilemmas add up to a satisfying, emotional read. Highly recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Cleave is a nerves-of-steel storyteller of stealthy power, and this is a novel as resplendent and menacing as life itself." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Cleave's narrative pulses with portentous, nearly spectral energy, and the author maintains a well-modulated balance between the two narrators. A solid sophomore effort, and hopefully a sign of even better things to come." Kirkus Reviews
"An ambitious and fearless gallop from the jungles of Africa via a shocking encounter on a Nigerian beach to the media offices of London and domesticity in leafy suburbia....Cleave immerses the reader in the worlds of his characters with an unshakable confidence." The Guardian (UK)
"The voice that speaks from the first page of Chris Cleave's Little Bee is one you might never have heard — the voice of a smart, wary, heartsick immigrant scarred by the terrors of her past....Read this urgent and wryly funny novel for its insights into simple humanity, the force that can disarm fear." O Magazine
"Suffice it to say that this novel takes as its starting point unspeakable violence, but that it is accessible and humane, rich and rewarding. The plotting is masterful, the characters unforgettable. And while it is utterly topical, it turns on timeless questions of freedom, guilt and responsibility and, finally, what it means to be human." Portland Oregonian
From the author of the international bestseller Incendiary comes a haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers — one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.
The lives of a sixteen-year-old Nigerian orphan and a well-off British woman collide in this page-turning #1 andlt;Iandgt;New York Times andlt;/Iandgt;bestseller and book club favorite from Chris Cleave.andlt;brandgt;andlt;brandgt;We donand#8217;t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we donand#8217;t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesnand#8217;t. And itand#8217;s what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, youand#8217;ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please donand#8217;t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.
About the Author
Chris Cleave is a columnist for The Guardian newspaper in London. His first novel, Incendiary, was published in twenty countries; won the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award; was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize; won the United States Book-of-the-Month Club's First Fiction Award; and won the Prix Special du Jury at the French Prix des Lecteurs 2007. His second novel, Little Bee, was shortlisted for the prestigious Costa Award for Best Novel. He lives in London with his French wife and two mischievous Anglo-French children. He keeps his website at www.chriscleave.com.
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