06 September 2010

Book Review- Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I thought it might be nice to not just include the mundane details of my financial explosions and take some time to review a book. I might include this sort of feature often if you guys like it! You'll notice I've added a little Amazon "Hey, I liked this stuff, so you should like it too" box to the right of the blog entries, and you'll notice I've just completed Little Bee. I'll review the book for you now!

I was recommended Chris Cleave's Little Bee by my friend who I stay with in New York, Erika. She and I were collectively voted Most Likely to Succeed of our 8th grade class, and you're damned right I don't forget it. It's one of two times I've ever "won" something (assuming we're counting my Outstanding Senior Band Member award from high school). Erika and I have now been friends for thirteen years, and I've grown to trust her taste in books and music, so when she recommended the book so highly I bought it at LaGuardia to start reading as soon as possible.

The book opens by meeting Little Bee herself who is in a detention center in London. We discover she is a Nigerian refugee and has been in the center for two years. With little hope of escape, she befriends a woman who performs favors for a gentleman at the office to allow them, and two other women, to leave. When she leaves, she calls the only person in England she knows, a man named Andrew. A few days after her phone call, Andrew kills himself. This begins the excitement of the book!

Maybe excitement isn't the right word. The action of the book begins, and, as a person who loves to predict events and endings in books, I had no idea how the book would go forward. You eventually discover how Little Bee knew Andrew (and his wife). A crucial character in the book is actually Andrew's son Charlie, who is very young, and insists on being called Batman. It's hard to characterize this book by any "category" because, to Cleave's credit, there are moments of humor and pain seamlessly integrated.

The book ends in a way that is simultaneously relieving and horrible. You are left to draw a conclusion rather than being told what exactly happens, so if that is an issue with you with book endings, you will likely be dissatisfied by the ending of Little Bee. I'm not one of those people, so I liked the ending. The book, however, is just so sad. It reminded me a bit of What is the What by Dave Eggers in that you keep thinking "what else can happen to this character?!" but, unlike Eggers, the book doesn't quite meet the nexus of the worlds of humor and pain, reality and levity.

I'm giving the book 4/5 stars because I was left with profound sadness when I finished. This is to simultaneously credit Cleave for making me care about his characters and still wish the book was slightly more uplifting. I liked it a lot, obviously though, and I really recommend it to anyone. Click away below to order it on Amazon!


  1. Michelle, I bought this book when I was in Nashville with you! And Brandon, hells yes we are both simultaneously succeeding and having excellent taste in music and books. :)