Summary and book reviews of Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee

(aka The Other Hand)

By Chris Cleave

Little Bee
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Feb 2009,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2010,
    304 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.

Published as The Other Hand in the UK, Australia and India; and Little Bee in the USA and Canada.

one

Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead, but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each others names.

A pound coin can go wherever it thinks it will be safest. It can cross deserts and oceans and leave the sound of gunfire and the bitter smell of burning thatch behind. When it feels warm and secure it will turn around and smile at you, the way my big sister Nkiruka used to smile at the men in our village in the short summer after she was a girl but before she was really a woman, and certainly before the evening my mother took her to a quiet place for a serious talk.

Of course a pound ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

Little Bee, a young Nigerian refugee, has just been released from the British immigration detention center where she has been held under horrific conditions for the past two years, after narrowly escaping a traumatic fate in her homeland of Nigeria. Alone in a foreign country, without a family member, friend, or pound to call her own, she seeks out the only English person she knows. Sarah is a posh young mother and magazine editor with whom Little Bee shares a dark and tumultuous past.

They first met on a beach in Nigeria, where Sarah was vacationing with her husband, Andrew, in an effort to save their marriage after an affair, and their brief encounter has haunted each woman for ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

Readers are likely to find much to like about Little Bee. Its controversial underlying themes, thorny moral dilemmas and deep emotional impact will make this novel a popular choice for book clubs   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (1005 words).

Media Reviews
The Guardian (UK)

An ambitious and fearless gallop from the jungles of Africa via a shocking encounter on a Nigerian beach to the media offices of London and domesticity in leafy suburbia...Cleave immerses the reader in the worlds of his characters with an unshakable confidence.

The Independent (UK)

Besides sharp, witty dialogue, an emotionally charged plot and the vivid characters' ethical struggles, Little Bee delivers a timely challenge to reinvigorate our notions of civilised decency.

Publishers Weekly

Cleave has a sharp cinematic eye, and humanizes disturbing issues around refugees and the situation in Africa, but the story is undermined by weak motivations and coincidences.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Library Journal

A tension-filled dramatic ending and plenty of moral dilemmas add up to a satisfying, emotional read. Highly recommended for all libraries and book clubs.

Booklist

Starred Review. Cleave is a nerves-of-steel storyteller of stealthy power, and this is a novel as resplendent and menacing as life itself.

O Magazine

The voice that speaks from the first page of Chris Cleave's Little Bee is one you might never have heard -- the voice of a smart, wary, heartsick immigrant scarred by the terrors of her past.... Read this urgent and wryly funny novel for its insights into simple humanity, the force that can disarm fear.

Reader Reviews
Denise B-K

Life is about our choices as "Little Bee" eloquently illustrates.
In an interview when the author is asked about his characters' choices on the Nigerian beach he replies, "Life is savagely unfair. It ignores our deep-seated convictions and places a disproportionate emphasis on the decisions we make in split ...   Read More

Alicia

Disturbed
I couldn't stop reading the book because I was hoping that at some point something has to go right. The book was disturbing and depressing. It actually made it hard for me to sleep because it made me sick to my stomach. The author can ...   Read More

Rachel

I Dearly Loved This Wonderful and Moving Novel
I was pulled into the story by Chris Cleave's very believable characters and beautiful use of language, and was astounded at how he was able to keep story from lagging, even while balancing two completely different narrators. I absorbed every word he...   Read More

emma

intense read
This book seems depressing in the first few chapters, but it digs into your psyche and holds on tight. The descriptive way this author writes is amazing. His comparisons to simple things in our American lives as seen through the eyes of someone so ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Chris Cleave's Inspiration for Little Bee
In interviews and on his web site, Cleave cites two events that inspired him to write a novel about refugees in the UK. Cleave worked in the canteen of a refugee detention center while on summer break from university, and was amazed to find that he'd been living within ten miles of the place for years without knowing of its existence. "The conditions in there were very distressing," he writes. "I got talking with asylum seekers who'd been through hell and were likely to be sent back to hell. Some of them were beautiful characters and it was deeply upsetting to see how we were treating them... I knew I had to write about it, because it's such a dirty secret. And I knew I had to show the ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Little Bee, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.