By February 21, 2009 4 Comments Read More →

Little Bee

Chris Cleave’s Little Bee begins with a perfect first line:

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.”

Thus begins the story of Little Bee, a Nigerian girl in a detention center in England who escaped Nigeria by the skin of her teeth after oil companies came in and slaughtered the people of her village.

Alternating between Little Bee’s chapters are the voice of an Englishwoman, Sarah, whom Little Bee met fatefully two years before on a beach in Nigeria. Sarah and her husband’s life were irrevocably changed by what happened on that beach, and the repurcussions only begin to make themselves fully known when Little Bee turns up in their lives again.

Sarah is a successful magazine editor, mother of the four-year-old Charlie who will not take off his Batman outfit, and a woman unfulfilled. She has an affair from a man in the Home Office, and shortly after the book begins, loses her husband Andrew to suicide.

Little Bee has been erroneously released from the detention center, and goes to the only people she knows, hoping to survive, hoping to find a way to stay in this new, strange country with her mastery of the language of Queen Elizabeth the Second.

What happens between these two women and how it changes them is the story arc of Little Bee.

Cleave achieves his story with narrative precision. I could scarcely believe that these two women came from the mind of a man. He inhabits these women, gives them their voice, dimension and complications. I was drawn in chapter by chapter to their stories, and to the wrenching terror at the heart of the novel: the evil being perpetrated against innocent people in Nigeria, and other parts of Africa, as a matter of course or as a matter or corporate greed.

Little Bee is the perfect book for discussion. It is riveting, surprising, full of questions and issues that will get everyone talking.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

4 Comments on "Little Bee"

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  1. nina_chachu@yahoo.com' Nina Chachu says:

    Just a small question/comment: I believe that this book is published in the UK under the title “The other hand”. I look forward to reading it,

  2. misha.stone@spl.org' misha says:

    I wasn’t aware of the alternate title–thank you!

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