Sunday, March 28, 2010

Something bad happened two years ago

Chris Cleave writes beautiful fiction. His Incendiary was, well, incendiary. His Little Bee is anything but little. It's so full of emotion, detail, character, and drama. It's so wonderfully readable and yet it makes you uncomfortable in some parts, especially with the brutal bits. There's no sugarcoating in Little Bee.

People have been wary about giving too much away concerning the plot of Little Bee. The blurb of my book even warns that "the magic is in how the story unfolds." When you read the novel, you know that this apparent secrecy about the plot is warranted. It has something to do with one nightmarish event that happened during a British couple's vacation in Nigeria. (When you read this part, you'll never believe that these things can still happen in this day and age.)

Little Bee is a Nigerian illegal immigrant who has just been released from the British detention center after two years. With no place to go, she ends up on the doorstep of the O'Rourke's, the couple she met on a beach in Nigeria. Andrew O'Rourke has just committed suicide , leaving his wife, Sarah, alone to take care of their son, Charlie, who refuses to get out of his Batman costume. Sarah, the head of fashion magazine, decides to keep Little Bee in her home. Andrew's suicide has something to do with Little Bee, but you'll have to read the novel to find out.

Cleave's novel undeniably has a wide readership appeal. I also find it admirable that a male novelist can write fiction about two strong-willed women (Sarah and Little Bee) and develop these female characters to the fullest. Cleave also tackles very sensitive issues -- Britain's treatment of illegal immigrants, the effects of globalization on a grassroots level, and the terrible plight of the refugee. But in the end, Little Bee is about Little Bee. You'll love Little Bee. She's far from perfect. Yes, she may seem precocious for her age (she's only 16), but her naivete is understandable. She's the ultimate fish-out-of-water persona. And you'll admire resilience.
"We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived." [page 9]
Somehow, Chris Cleave reminds me of Ian McEwan. You just know that something bad is going to happen in the story. But one difference is that, in Little Bee, the bad thing has happened two years ago into the story, and you keep on reading to find out its consequences on the lives of Little Bee and the O'Rourkes. You may not like what really happens in the story, but you keep on reading nonetheless because, like any good work of fiction, Little Bee touches you.

Read this book if:
  1. You're ambivalent about the effects of globalization.
  2. You love strong female characters.
  3. You want to find out what happened to Sarah's missing finger.


Mrs. B. said...

This sounds so intriguing! I had no idea what this book was about though I've seen it around. I think the cover and the title made me think it was some sort of Oprah chick-lit book like the Secret Life of Bees or Bee Season. I'll definitely have a closer look next time I see it in the bookstore. Thanks for the review!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Mrs. B! Funny, I thought of the same thing too. I'm just so glad that I was proven wrong!

Vivienne said...

The secrecy around this book as always intrigued me, but it still hasn't pushed me to pick it up, even though I bought it over a year ago. I need to just get on with it and read it.

Book Dilettante said...

Sara's finger makes me think I might not want to read the book. But I'm glad you liked it~ wish I could hear the rest...:)


Peter S. said...

@Vivienne: I'm sure you'll love this!

@Book Dilettante: You just have to read the book to find out!

Charlie said...

You are a tease, Peter, but in this case it's warranted.

And come to think of it, I do the same thing.

Peter S. said...

@Charlie: LOL!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a really delicious read, Peter! The statement,"the magic is in how the story unfolds.", just intrigues me to bits. Now, where to find this?