In which I reveal plot points despite explicit instructions on the back of the book
Title: Little Bee
Author: Chris Cleave
What it’s about: Little Bee has an interesting description on the back cover. It willfully hides the plot of the novel from you, going so far as to say that they don’t want to tell you what happens in the book and that you really just have to trust them. They practically refuse. But they promise you’ll like it. As a frequent writer of these back cover descriptions myself, I’m amazed they were able to sell the book based on pretty cover and intrigue alone. I’m also amazed their sales department let them get away with it. . . I on the other hand, have no such scruples over plot revelation. OK, basic plot. I’ll leave out the shocking stuff so you can enjoy it too.
Little Bee is the story of two women, as the back cover helpfully points out. Here are the details they leave out. One is a Nigerian refugee recently emigrated to the United Kingdom. The other is a British woman she once met on a beach in Nigeria, Sarah, who works as a fashion magazine editor in London and lives with her husband and son in the suburbs. When Little Bee is released from the immigrant detention center, she knows only two people in London–Sarah and her husband Andrew. The three shared a traumatic experience in Nigeria, but Little Bee has no one else to turn to. Her return to their lives is shocking and forces everyone involved to reevaluate their priorities and their paths in life.
I really enjoyed the book. It’s not a light read because of the subject matter, but it is surprisingly easy. Little Bee’s life philosophy is both beautiful and sad and the sections written from her point of view were some of my favorites. She describes her desire to be like a British pound, accepted everywhere and of known value. Instead, her place in the UK is so uncertain and her life so fraught that she never enters a room without first planning out the easiest way to kill herself if “the men should come.” It’s morbid, but its part of life to her. The other half of the book is narrated by Sarah, who gives an outsider point-of-view on the refugee situation and her own guilt and complicity in our ignorance of the situation. The most endearing character in the book is her son, Charlie, who responds only to the name “Batman” and engaged in all out warfare against the Puffin and other baddies.
Would I recommend? Yes. This isn’t my typical read because I expect books like this to depress me. But Little Bee is not depressing and though its topic should be heavy, its treatment still offers humor and hope in even the darkest situation.