Tag: Little Bee

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review of Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Let’s take a look at Little Bee by Chris Cleave from a Reader’s Perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

Chris Cleave’s Little Bee


(*Amazon affiliate link)

Little Bee by Chris Cleave is the fourth book we’ve read from The Bestseller Code’s 100 Bestsellers List and yet again, we are presented with a novel that is quite unlike the previous books we’ve read.  Little Bee is a 16-year-old female refugee whom we first meet in an Immigration Detention Centre in England, although we don’t learn her exact age until quite late in the book. Little Bee’s story is a difficult one to read – you know something horrific happened in her Nigerian homeland, and while she can hardly bear to relate the events, facing those horrific memories, along with the resulting pain and emotional turmoil, is integral to her story.  She must face it all, and so, thus, must we.

The second main character is Sarah Summers, a thirtyish magazine editor living in a London suburb, whose life became intertwined with Little Bee’s when Sarah and her husband were “on holiday” in Nigeria.  She, too, has her own memories to face and life decisions to make.  Can Little Bee & Sarah deal with their past?  And, if so, how will their decisions impact their futures?

I cannot remember when I last felt this emotional while reading a novel.  I found myself reading Little Bee in small chugs, sometimes only a few paragraphs, and then setting it aside for hours or a day before picking it back up again.  I needed that time to deal with the swirl of emotions – dread, anxiety, fear, confusion, horror, anger – before I could pick the story back up and read some more.

The blurb on the back cover of the book tells very little about the story:

  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 will want to tell everyone about it.  Please don’t tell them what happens.  The magic is in how it unfolds.

To be honest, I don’t remember anywhere in the book that was “extremely funny.”  The only levity I remember is from Sarah Summer’s four-year-old son, Charlie, who clings to the belief that, as Batman, he can overcome the “baddies” of the world.  Without Charlie, Little Bee would be impossible to read.

Little Bee is the story of any refugee from any land at any time.  It is certainly a story for our time.  And while the story is painful and difficult to read, the author leaves us with hope – if not for Little Bee herself, then for all the Little Bees and all the Charlies yet to come.

What did you think of Little Bee? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Little Bee Landing Page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 96 on the list, The Last Child by John Hart (2009) – Discussion begins January 2, 2017.

 

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Let’s take a look at Little Bee by Chris Cleave from a writer’s perspective.  Discussion of this novel began here.

Note:  Post contains spoilers.

Chris Cleave’s Little Bee: A Novel

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  The novel explores the relationship between a young Nigerian illegal immigrant and recently widowed suburban Londoner.  Although this book was first published in 2008 (as The Other Hand), it is still relevant today.

1. Plot/Structure

Writers often ask how a novel is structured or plotted.  Does the author tell the story in three acts, as a hero’s journey, or use some other structure? Does the writer spin out the story chronologically or through flashbacks?

In Little Bee, Cleave uses a convoluted series of flashbacks to tell the main story. It unfolds in overlapping layers, like the author sliced through the bulb of an onion without knowing exactly which layer would be revealed at any given moment. When someone without training or practice tells a story they often circle around, backtrack, etc. instead of telling it straight through. By starting in the middle of events and revealing the beginning through glimpses of backstory, the author makes the whole thing seem like it is being told by a real person. It becomes more personal and also more believable.

2. Character Development

Unlike our last book, which had a plethora of characters, Cleave concentrates on two women. Little Bee is the alias of a young woman from Nigeria who has come to Britain illegally.  Sarah O’Rouke/Summers is a recently-widowed young mother who works on a magazine. The story alternates between their two points of view.

Generally writers stick to one point of view during a scene so they don’t confuse their readers. In one critical section Cleave flaunts that rule by changing point of view without warning. Instead of having one character fade, he simply changes perspective from one sentence to the next. It’s a bold move, but it emphasizes how the story is both their stories.

Dialogue

Author Chris Cleave is a white male journalist, but he is able to make his two female main characters — one of whom is black — sound realistic by giving them  different voices. Other characters have distinctive voices, as well.

In this scene Little Bee is talking with another refugee. Notice how formal Little Bee’s English is.

“Mi name is Yevette. From Jamaica, zeen. You useful, darlin. What they call yu?”
“My name is Little Bee.”
“What kinda name yu call dat?”
“It is my name.”
“What kind of place yu come from, dey go roun callin little gals de names of insects?”
“Nigeria.”

One reviewer said Sarah’s voice was less believable because she sounded masculine, implying that Cleave let his own voice creep in. I disagree. It seemed to me that Sarah sounded grief-stricken instead. She was trying to keep her emotions in check, but she had been knocked off her feet by her husband’s death.  She sounded bottled up.

What did you think of Sarah’s voice as a character? What about Little Bee’s?

 

writer's-food-seller-nigeria

Photo credit: International Livestock Research Institute via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

3. Setting (Scene Execution)

The book is set in England, primarily a suburb of London, and also Nigeria. Cleave has a deft touch with setting, giving the reader a feeling of place without too many overwhelming details.

When Little Bee leaves the detention center after two years, she sees:

The English countryside stretched away to the horizon. Soft mist was hanging in the valleys, and the tops of the low hills were gold in the morning sun, and I smiled because the whole world was fresh and new and bright.

4. Theme

Little Bee is considered to be literary fiction so, as we would expect, it has strongly-developed themes. The central theme of this book is the experiences of illegal immigrants.  It explores why immigrants come to England and how they are treated. It also explores relationships.

Conclusions:

Once again, this book is completely unlike the others we have read to this point. It has a limited cast of characters. In contrast to the previous books, it is difficult to read in places because of the extreme emotional impact of the words. The plot is layered like an onion, and also like an onion, it might make you cry.

What did you think of Little Bee?

 

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 96, The Last Child by John Hart (2009) – Discussion begins January 2, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Time to start the discussion of novel 97 from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, previously published as The Other Hand.

This post does not contain spoilers.

Little Bee: A Novel* by Chris Cleave

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  The novel explores the relationship between a young Nigerian refugee and suburban Londoner who was recently widowed.

From the Amazon page for the book:

“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.”

 

bestseller-code-100-97-little-bee

What did you think of Little Bee? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts (upcoming throughout the next two weeks):

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4.  After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey about whether you thought this novel belonged on the list of the best of the bestsellers.

You can also join us on social media:

Have you written about Little Bee? Feel free to add a link to your review here.


__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 96. The Last Child by John Hart (2009) – Discussion begins January 2, 2017

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