Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Nigeria has been in the news again recently. Although this time it seems to be about an extremist group's demands, and not oil, it seems an appropriate time to have read Little Bee, a novel based around another time of atrocity in Nigeria. The protagonist of our novel is set on her journey in the murky world of illegal immigration because her village just happens to be sitting on top of a vast reserve of 'black gold'.

This was a reading group pick, which was why I finally got around to reading the copy on my shelf. Cleave is a good writer and I will definitely be picking up more of his work, but I did not totally buy this particular story. There is a crucial scene on a beach which marks all the characters in a way that will affect the future, and though the idea was good, it didn't play quite right to  me. Almost right, but not quite right, which is the kind of thing that can take you out of the story.

Nevertheless, the collision of the refugee and the liberal but privileged set is well done in this book. I think one of the best lines in the story was when Sarah, a journalist who had started out editing a magazine which was supposed to be educating people on the world, but which has gradually been co-opted, says that she wanted to make a difference and someone responds, "We all want to make a difference, but everything has its time and place." Because of astute assessments of our sensibilities such as this one, I really wouldn't want to put anybody off reading Little Bee, which is loaded with nuggets like that.

And Little Bee herself is quite irresistable...


  1. Hi Seana-I have to read this for my reading group too. We always read books like this-social message books. For once I wouldn't mind reading some fluff.

  2. Hi Patti--

    I know what you mean about the fluff.

    I feel a bit guilty about my treatment of this book, though. Cleave has a lot of interesting things to say, but I went to the group and shouted everyone down because of this one plot point, while they had all liked it either a lot or a little. Apparently I've done it here again, and it isn't even a book I have a lot of venom for.