Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

July 23, 2010

Little Bee is the fictional story of a Nigerian teenager named aptly named Little Bee whose family had the misfortune of living in a small village on a valuable Nigerian oil deposits. Little Bee meets British magazine editor Sarah O’Rourke on a beach in Nigeria and their lives are changed and intertwined forever. What happened on that beach that fateful day is part of the mystery of the book which slowly reveals itself.

Besides the teenage refugee Sarah has to contend with other twists and turns life throws at her which includes her little son who refuses to take off his Batman costume, a lover, a job and a husband who is constantly in the background.

The book is told in two voices, one of Little Bee and the other of Sarah, we see the events from both their eyes but it’s more like a continuation. Little Bee finishes a narration and Sarah picks up from where she left off and vice versa.

I liked Little Bee and the ending caught me a bit by surprise and I liked the distinct voices author Chris Cleave tries to use – it made the story more interesting and gave us a bit of background about Little Bee without having to resort to flashbacks.

That being said, I felt that the story was “forced”, as if the author wrote the story backwards and then forced events / plot twists to come to that conclusion, it was as if the book was overly structured instead of just flowing.

I also didn’t find the characters very likable; the most appealing was Little Bee and I felt for Sarah who seemed to have her life coming apart at the seams slowly and then just tear from beneath her, but she seemed to be one of those women who justify every mistake or bad decision they make by either blaming someone else or “needing to take care of myself” – a bit selfish, with very little depth and, excuse me, a bit stupid or willfully blind to reality.

I still liked the book, it was an interesting topic and didn’t try to look at the immigration situation in the UK through rose colored glasses or simplify it into good and bad, but shades of gray as are most things in life are.

Is this book as important as it claims to be (right on the cover)?
That’s up to history to decide. We all know that horrible things are taking place around the world in “our name” so we can live in comfort and relative safety. Most of us are also willfully turn a blind eye or choose to believe the propaganda justifying the actions – this is nothing new.

Did you think this book is as important as it claims to be?

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Zohar – Man of La Book
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Little Bee by Chris Cleave


  • BookQuoterJuly 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    First positive review of this book I have read so far. Maybe I will move i to my maybe pile. Thanks.

  • bookbitesreviewsJuly 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I'm just stopping by from the hop. I hope you're having a great weekend!

  • booksploringJuly 26, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Haven't read this one…but it sounds interesting. Great review 🙂

  • erisian23July 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

    i loved this book. but also hated it.i was not in the right mind set to read it and felt that the publishers were misleading in their description of the book.i agree with many of the "forced" comments you have above.

  • EvelynSeptember 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I just bought this book from Costco, of all the crazy places. I'm not reading your review or the comments until after I'm done! Coming back later to see what you said! 🙂

  • Mary MahoneyNovember 29, 2010 at 12:59 am

    I see the point of those who think the book is forced, as Little Bee ends up on the very same beach (or much the same beach and much the same circumstances) as where it began. However, I think this is the stuff of allegory. Most developed nations classify many refugees seeking asylum to save their lives as “economic refugees” and deport them. The refugees, once repatriated, do indeed wind up facing the same class of executioners they fled. Chris Cleave has a lot of righteous anger about the detention centers and the deportations of refugees who are truly in danger of torture and execution, and in Little Bee’s case, and that of her sister, the cause is a two-or-three way petrol war in which Britain is a full participant. Horror is a means of securing the silence of those who know. Children–even a journalist’s while child–are subjected to automatic weapons fire. The victory that Little Bee brings home with her is that she has forsaken her thoughts of suicide when the feared inevitable return of the soldiers comes.

    • zoharNovember 29, 2010 at 11:13 am

      Good points Mary. What I meant by “forced” is that the story doesn’t simply flow, it is as if the author started from the end an forced events to come to the conclusion. We can agree that horrible things are happening around the world in our name, that is another point, I felt, the book was trying to make.

  • litandlifeApril 6, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I can’t say that I think the book is as important as the blurbs and some of the reviews claim it to be. It definitely makes you think. But I’ve got to say that I didn’t like Sarah at all; you’re right, she never seemed to be happy.

  • MarieNovember 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Very nice review. I think the book cover blurb was misleading. It definitely has some interesting/important parts and I like how the story was told. But overall, it didn’t have much of an effect on me.

    I added a link to this review from my review. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

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