LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave

LITTLE BEE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cleave follows up his outstanding debut (Incendiary, 2005) with a psychologically charged story of grief, globalization and an unlikely friendship.

The story opens in a refugee detention center outside of London. As the Nigerian narrator—who got her nickname “Little Bee” as a child—prepares to leave the center, she thinks of her homeland and recalls a horrific memory. “In the immigration detention center, they told us we must be disciplined,” she says. “This is the discipline I learned: whenever I go into a new place, I work out how I would kill myself there. In case the men come suddenly, I make sure I am ready.” After Little Bee’s release, the first-person narration switches to Sarah, a magazine editor in London struggling to come to terms with her husband Andrew’s recent suicide, as well as the stubborn behavior of her four-year-old son, Charlie, who refuses to take off his Batman costume. While negotiating her family troubles, Sarah reflects on “the long summer when Little Bee came to live with us.” Cleave alternates the viewpoints of the two women, patiently revealing the connection between them. A few years prior, Sarah and Andrew took a vacation to the Nigerian coast, not realizing the full extent to which the oil craze had torn the country apart. One night they stumble upon Little Bee and her sister, who are fleeing a group of rapacious soldiers prowling the beach. The frightening confrontation proves life-changing for everyone involved, though in ways they couldn’t have imagined. A few years later Sarah and Little Bee come together again in the suburbs of London, and their friendship—in addition to that between Little Bee and Charlie—provides some salvation for each woman. Though less piercing and urgent than his debut, 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.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-8963-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2008




THE BOOKS OF WORLD BOOK NIGHT 2012:

ChildrenWINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
by Laurie Halse Anderson
FictionENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
by Orson Scott Card
FictionLITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave
by Chris Cleave
ChildrenTHE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
by Suzanne Collins
Kirkus Interview
Chris Cleave
June 14, 2016

In bestseller Chris Cleave’s latest novel Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, it’s London, 1939. The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up. Tom Shaw decides to ignore the war—until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided. Young, bright, and brave, Mary is certain she’d be a marvelous spy. When she is—bewilderingly—made a teacher, she finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget. Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary. And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams. “Among all the recent fictions about the war, Cleave’s miniseries of a novel is a surprising standout,” our reviewer writes, “with irresistibly engaging characters who sharply illuminate issues of class, race, and wartime morality.” View video >

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