Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

This is the hardest book review I've ever written. I'm actually kind of afraid to write it. Why? Because here is what it says on the inside book jacket:

We don't want to tell
WHAT HAPPENS in this book.

It is a truly SPECIAL STORY
and we don't want to spoil it.

NEVERTHELESS, you need to know
enough to buy it, so we will
just say this:

It then goes on to give a very brief summary of the story and then is says this:

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.

Wow, if that doesn't grab your attention, I'm not sure what will. Actually, I do know. When two friends, whose opinions I trust recommended the book to me, I decided to find out what the big mystery was for myself. And you know what, I have absolutely no idea. None! I'm worried that maybe I missed something. I was expecting some sort of Sixth Sense or The Others type of story. You know, something that if you tell others it ruins the story for them. And I did not find that to be the case. So I'm confused. And a little bit afraid to write a review that includes a summary. What if I just missed something?

So, be warned, I am going to summarize the story in the next few paragraphs. So don't read them, if you are worried about being spoiled simply be learning the basic plot of the story. But before I do that, just let me say this - I think the publisher/editor/author/whoever did this book a big disservice by writing that blurb. I felt disappointed and a little cheated when the story did not live up to it's "promise" (for lack of a better word), . I found myself forming my opinion of Little Bee based on the fact that it didn't deliver a big surprise, instead of on the merits of the story itself. When I took a step back and tried to objectively evaluate the story (which was very hard, I might add), I realized it's actually a pretty good story. But I didn't feel that way upon finishing it. Instead I felt frustrated, tricked and confused. So, if the topic of the story interests you, by all means, read it. But if you are tempted to read it to be wowed by some clever plot device, I'd say don't waste your time.

OK, my summary is coming up now. So you may want to stop reading now.

Little Bee
by Chris Cleave tells the story of Sarah O'Rourke a British journalist and Little Bee a 14 year old Nigerian girl whose village is the scene of terrible violence due to the discovery of oil there. Sarah and her husband Andrew travel to Nigeria for a vacation and while on the beach, they encounter Little Bee and her sister, Nkiruka. The sisters are running away from the violence in their village. This encounter will have far reaching ramifications for all involved.

The story picks up two years later when Little Bee is released from a detention center in Britain and finds her way to Sarah and Andrew's home in the English countryside. Much of the story deals with the slow uncovering of the facts of what happened on the beach and of Little Bee's experiences during the intervening two years.

The strength of Little Bee lies in the story of Little Bee's life in her Nigerian village and how different life can be in more volatile parts of the world. It's not something most of us here in America can even fathom. And that is exactly what happens to Sarah and Andrew. They are forced to confront the reality of Little Bee's life and deal with their own impotence in the face of this great injustice. And on these merits, Little Bee is a good story. Cleave does a good job of slowly unveiling the story to keep reader interest high. It reads almost like a suspense novel. It is a quick read and in parts it is a page turner. I have such mixed feelings about this book due to my unmet expectations. But when think about Little Bee objectively, it really is a good story.
Have any of you read Little Bee? What are your thoughts? Did I miss something?

I would give Little Bee 3 STARS - I liked it.


Single and Sane said...

It does sound like a good story, but you're right. When something is over-hyped, it is easy to disappoint.

Stopping by from The Lady Bloggers tea social. I love the mix of things on your blog!

Mom Squad said...

I have trouble with books that are "hard read", but after reading this, you do kinda have me curious!

Mary said...

I've had my eye on this book for a while.I might just pick it up now thanks to your review!
I am visiting from The Lady Bloggers Tea Social and enjoyed reading through your blog!

Davney said...

I'm here from the LBS tea party! Love your blog :)

I'm a big reader as well & always love to read other's reviews!

Karen said...

I've never even heard of this book, but I would be very frustrated by the promise of some amazing surprise, only to find out it's just a good story.

Thanks for the review. I'll keep this in the eventually-if-I-find-the-time category.

Katherine said...

I hate when people hype things up, and then there is no way the object can live up to the hype. But it still sounds good.

JessRaquel said...

Hi! I found your blog through The Lady Bloggers Tea Party and I love it! I read this book review and I really like how you give your honest opinion in a very positive way. I've always been a huge bookworm and you have inspired me to start reviewing a few books myself and see how I like it...

Following you now, keep up the good work!

Sandy said...

Being the contrarian I often am, when there is a big media hype about a book or a movie, I think I set my mind up NOT to get caught up. Having a friend tell me something is terrific makes a big difference. But I've finished books and movies, too, and asked "what's the big deal?"

Sandy said...

Being the contrarian I often am, when there is a big media hype about a book or a movie, I think I set my mind up NOT to get caught up. Having a friend tell me something is terrific makes a big difference. But I've finished books and movies, too, and asked "what's the big deal?"

C. Ialis said...
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L. Ovex said...
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Anonymous said...

While I found the book profoundly touching, I also found it utterly depressing and difficult to pick up once put down. I had to finish it in just a few days because of the cloud it put over my life while reading it.
However, the subject matter is most disturbing and should be at the forefront of our collective conscious.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the ending was the big surprise. It certainly was not what I expected. Hard to read, topic wise, but very compelling and I could not put it down until I was finished.

ara_cheli777 said...

this book can bring to life a lot of feelings. I laughed with it, I cried with it, it thrilled me. I liked the fact that it was full of sayings, and morals that make you, 'you carry the weather with you'... but I ought to accept I expected more for the end. There came a moment when I though: 'Oh, so this is it?' and I didn't quite like the end. But nice story.


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