Saturday, September 12, 2015

509 (2015 #66). Little Bee

by Chris Cleave

I've had a paperback copy of this book sitting on my TBR (to be read) pile for a while - I think I picked up the copy, which was water damaged, for a quarter somewhere.

The Little Bee of the title is a Nigerian refugee in England.  Mistakenly released after two years in an immigration detention center, she seeks out the only two people she knows in England, journalists Andrew and Sarah O'Rourke.

The three met on a beach in Nigeria, and terrible things happen.  Andrew and Sarah thought Little Bee was dead, but when she turns up at their home, more terrible things happen.

The story is told alternating between Sarah's and Little Bee's viewpoints.  Little Bee is likable, Sarah not particularly so - too naive and self-absorbed.

Author Chris Cleave worked briefly at a detention center in the early 1990s, and says that is why he wrote the book.  "I knew I had to write about it, because it’s such a dirty secret. And I knew I had to show the unexpected humour of these refugees wherever I could, and to make the book an enjoyable and compelling read – because otherwise people’s eyes would glaze over."

A few quotes from the book (all by Little Bee) that I liked:

page 9:  "...a scar is never ugly...We must all see scars as beauty...a scar does not form on the dying.  A scar means, I survived."

page 131:  "I could not stop talking because now I had started my story, it wanted to be finished.  We cannot choose where to start and stop.  Our stories are the tellers of us."

page 182:  "Even the missionaries had boarded up their mission.  They left us with the holy books that were not worth the expense of shipping back to your country.  In our village our only Bible had all of its pages missing after the forty-sixth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, so that the end of our religion, as far as any of us knew, was My god, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?  We understood that this was the end of the story."

I love the silhouette-style cover of this book. Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich designed it as well as the similar American covers for Cleave's other books, Gold and Incendiary.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I own my copy of this book, but it is also available at the Hood County Library.]

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