Little Bee

Thoughts   Little Bee by Chris Cleave 2008, 1st Simon & Schuster paperback ed. Feb 2010, 271 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:   For my book club;  I borrowed from another clubber.    Discussion to be May 20.

“We must see all scars as beauty.  Okay?  This will be our secret.  Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.   A scar means, I survived.

In a few breaths’ time I will speak some sad words to you.  But you must hear them the same way we have agreed to see scars now.  Sad words are just another beauty.  A sad story means, this story-teller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile.”

WHAT’s is ABOUT:     Little Bee has escaped Nigeria only to be caught and detained in an immigration facility in England for two years.   She uses that time wisely, learning how to speak the Queen’s English.   When she finds herself released without papers, she calls on the only people she knows – a couple she met on the beach back in Nigeria who are shocked at having to relive the moments of that fateful meeting on a beach two years past.

WHAT’s GOOD:   This book is well written and evokes many emotions about the plight of immigrants who do not just want a better life in a ‘nice’ country but need to escape dire situations.    This is a serious somewhat unsentimental book, shining a fictional light on true-to-life horrible despicable situations most of us (those of us with ‘nice’ lives) prefer not to get too close to.     Little Bee is endearing;  this reader wants to fight for her success.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    I just didn’t get as swept up as I had hoped.    I can’t pinpoint any faults.    I did like the book but I didn’t find anything to praise highly.   I actually appreciated the author thoughts in the back of the book – it added to my understanding of the conflicts in wartorn Africa.    I was not overly charmed by the little kid.    And the mom was not a woman I would probably like in real life but I found her believably portrayed.   I did love the title character Little Bee.

FINAL THOUGHTS:      This book will be a good one to discuss because I think we Americans (OK, me) do have a very insulated look – if we bother to look at all! – at the tragedies occurring in places around the globe.    I don’t doubt that the oil war massacres happen, have happened and happen again while governments deny or bury the news.    It’s tragic and the frustration of how to do one good thing to help is overwhelming.     So…   let’s watch American Idol and wonder if Kim Karsdashian has had plastic surgery, shall we?

I know that a few other clubbers did not enjoy the book so I hope we not only look at the plot but also the writing which personally, I enjoyed.   We will likely have some ‘moral dilemma’ discussion.

RATING:   THREE SLICES of PIE.    Key Lime Pie because whatshername (see?  I don’t even remember her name – eek!)   drinks Gin & Tonics and they usually have a lime garnish.

QUALIFIES for the AFRICA slot of the Read GLOBAL Challenge.  

P.S.  I originally had wanted to listen to the audio of this book because it has been said it’s a very good one to hear, for the voices.     Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the fine print when I purchased.   I ended up with a disc that was unplayable in my car’s CD system so I had to send it back and find the actual book.    Be warned!  — read the true description!    I swear, I have the worst luck with audios…

P.P.S.  I love the publishers that include how the Library of Congress catalogues a book, don’t you?   I just don’t know if I should use these as tags on a post or at the beginning of the post, include at all or just what.   Any opinions?   I think I’ll add as tags…

As Charley says in her review at Bending Bookshelf, “a solid story with potential for interesting discussion.”


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

20 thoughts on “Little Bee

  1. I have mostly heard good reviews on this one. But when you are not impressed by a book, you’re just not 🙂

    But I do love the passage you’ve posted.

    1. Oh, three stars still means “I like it.” I cannot say I was unimpressed. It just wasn’t one of those that evoked high praise. It still is a good book.
      Even a two star books is “OK” and good enough that I would finish it. Usually. Such goes the risk of rating books. sigh…

  2. I liked this book, too… but didn’t love it. The marketing ploy with all the secrecy irritated me. Too bad you couldn’t get the audio to work – the reader was excellent.

    1. I WAS disappointed that I couldn’t drive and listen. I was SO looking forward to it and then it frustrated my timing to get the book read. But anyway. I almost (might still) go check out A Tree Grows in Brooklyn audio from the library. Also, I wonder why I have zero hesitation to buy a book but balk at the price of audios? I’m rambling now.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I’m reading a book right now that I feel the same way about. I’m not impressed with it but still reading it for some reason. I don’t know if I’m going to pick up Little Bee to read. It seems like people either love it or hate it but your review is the first I read that was “meh” about the book.

  4. I didn’t care for this one that much. I read it for my book club as well, and if I didn’t have that as a motivating factor, I probably would not have finished this one. I thought the treatment of the Little Bee character was a little patronizing and a few of the characters seemed a little one note, but it we had a lot to discuss, so I guess there is that.

  5. I’ve heard several people say, like Nicole, that the portrayal of Little Bee has a slightly patronizing tone, which I have to say has put me off completely. “Patronizing” is one of those words that if I read it in a review, I’ll probably never ever ever pick up the book being reviewed.

  6. Like others here, I was a bit put off by what I read about this book, so I let my daughter have a turn with it first. I don’t think she’s finished it, and that says something to me; she’s pretty discerning already at 16.

  7. I quite enjoyed this book, reading it as ‘The Other Hand’ which is the title it was released under in Australia.

    I enjoyed the way Chris Cleave described the emotions of his characters. I also wasn’t fond of the mother, but found her believable and consistent. I liked the way Cleave presented the bigger issues in the story.

    I confess I’m not surprised a 16 year old (mentioned above), even a discerning one, would not finish the book. I think that some of the events portrayed were quite confronting and the emotional issues presented perhaps require a little more life experience to fully appreciate. I don’t know whether it’s a book that I would have enjoyed as much if I’d read it at 20 rather than 37.

    If nothing else, it is certainly likely to give plenty of points for discussion at your book club. Thanks for your review.

    1. Excellent points. I am looking forward to the discussion – might be one of our best yet!

      I confess that I have no clue if a 16 yo can be discerning – all depends on the youth. Many are smarter than the 40 y.o.’s I know. But tis true, a book read in high school can mean something very different 15-20 years later.

      Which is probably a good argument for me to read another Steinbeck since I had intense dislike of him during my impressionable-youth years.

  8. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy it as much as you expected. I have to admit that I’m still curious about the book and it will remain on my wishlist.

    I hope you have a great bookclub discussion 🙂

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