Saturday, March 20, 2010

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I read Little Bee at the recommendation of Very Smart Gal, Kelly Loudenslager, Realtor, and loved many things about it, and disliked a few. Interestingly, that seemed to be the response of many readers/reviewers. Of the reviews I saw, there were almost as many who loved it as didn’t, and even the ones who loved it disliked some things about it, and those who didn’t particularly love it nevertheless loved some things.

I listened to the book on my iPod, as it seems the only time I have to “read” anymore is listening to them in my car driving to and fro, and listening to Little Bee was one of the things I loved. Reader, Anne Flosnik, did such a lovely job of portraying the various dialects, Nigerian, Jamaican and the “Kings English,” that I occasionally found myself enraptured by her voice and loosing track of the story. Click on Read More For the Full Review...

Briefly, Little Bee is the story of a young girl from Nigeria (Little Bee), whose life, under horrifying circumstance, becomes entangled with those of an English couple visiting Nigeria on holiday. Little Bee ends up illegally stowing away on a cargo ship to England, is detained in a refugee camp in England for two years, and then illegally leaves to seek out and find the English couple. The story involves soulless oil sycophants and murderous mercenaries in Nigeria, and equally subhuman characters everywhere else. In fact, that’s one of the things I didn’t like about the book. Little Bee seemed a little too perfect, and everyone else seemed bellicose. I don’t believe in absolutes. Life isn’t black and white, in any sense of the word, it is Technicolor, complicated. Pigeonholing doesn’t work for me and I felt that author Chris Cleave was.

Side Note: Just yesterday I received notice from Women for Women International, an organization that I support, about recent violence again women and children in Nigeria. Click on Women for Women above for more information.

What I did like about Little Bee was the beautiful writing, which created dioramas of thoughts and visions so provocative that I found myself resenting the driving rhythm of the audio recording. Writer Chris Cleave, and reader Anne Flosnik. made me want to pause and relish.

Although I didn’t like the relentless flaws of the characters, I loved that they had flaws,  knew they had them and wrestled with them, sometimes between characters, which made for very interesting dialogue. For example, in a discussion between two friends who were also employee/employer, they crossed back and forth between those roles, with all the inherent perils, flaws a' flying. And there were many such interesting scenarios – lover/stranger, husband/enemy, and friend/employee.

There were two other things that I found annoying. First, the child, whose character just didn’t seem to fit into the story. I don’t know if it’s because the author doesn’t know to write about children or if it was just the reading, but I found myself wanting to skip past those sections of the book.

And then alas the ending – which seemed to be designed not to leave us with a feeling of closure or satisfaction, but rather to just end the book.

So, don’t go into Little Bee expecting miracles, but do read it. It’s well worth your time.

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