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:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2010, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

The publishers "don't want to spoil" the story by giving too much away - so we won't - but in brief it features a young Nigerian orphan, a well-off British couple, and the real distances in a globalized world which can be crossed in single day. Published as The Other Hand in the UK, Australia and India; and Little Bee in the USA and Canada.

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 ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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 (634 words).

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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.

Reader Reviews

LOVEREADING

A Missed Opportunity
An OK read but not strong enough for my book club. Far too predictable in places, child character stretching the boundaries of credibility with far too much 'product placement' (is Cleave hoping for a screen writing gig and/or movie deal?) The ...   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

mainlinebooker

Run,run to the store
All I need to say is this-I got so caught up in this heartstopping book that I missed both lunch and supper as I couldn't stop reading. It continued to haunt me the rest of the night and I quickly emailed my friends and ordered his previous book

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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 ...

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