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Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave


We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book.
It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.
nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this:            This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again – the story starts there …
           Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.
This contains minor spoilers; consider yourselves warned.
This book, I must say, did not meet my expectations, and I blame the way it was marketed.  One of them does have to make a terrible choice, and later it leads to big consequences. And yes, they meet again two years later, and that leads to even worse things… It doesn’t have the “whoa!” moment you expect when you read the description above, though, because the story in general is no stranger to any of us.
I liked Little Bee; her voice was pretty strong. I very much enjoyed her story about coming to a new country, learning the language and trying to learn the social code. She was insightful, looking at England as the outsider that she is and trying to fit in. Sarah, on the other hand, was a mess. She reminded me of one of those ridiculous women who have money, a good job and good family yet they’re still not happy and keep complaining. 
The narrative switches back and forth between Little Bee’s and Sarah’s voices, and I thought that was very unnecessary. I felt we needed Sarah to keep Little Bee’s story going, and it would be better if she wasn’t so centralized in the narrative. Also, Little Bee’s voice insightful and believable, and Sarah’s just wasn’t.
Obviously a lot of research went into writing this book, which I always appreciate, yet I expected to see more of Little Bee’s life in Nigeria. I felt Sarah stole most of Little Bee’s airtime with her complaining about what her magazine has become and dwelling on her problems with Lawrence, who’s the guy she’s been sleeping with for a while. And what really was Lawrence’s importance to the story? For me he’s just the guy who told Little Bee to call the cops because Sarah would think better of it. Also, the part about Little Bee getting caught was way too rushed and way too easy. Do London police get suspicious about every African-looking person they see? I sure hope not.
And there’s Charlie… Sarah’s 4-year-old son. He refuses to get out of his Batman suit, and in his world everyone is either a “baddie” or a “goodie,” which was rather adorable, I must admit. But then again he was wining most of the time, and I grew tired of that rather quickly. The relationship between Charlie and Little Bee was quite interesting, but I felt those were rather rushed as well. 
All in all I did like the book, but I think it could have been a lot better considering the subject matter. And my favorite part was the Nigerian proverb at the very end of the book, so I’ll just leave you with that:
If your face is swollen from the severe beatings of life, smile and pretend to be a far man.
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