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Little Bee [Hardcover]

Chris Cleave
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Kindle Edition --  
Hardcover, Large Print CDN $33.96  
Hardcover, Feb. 10 2009 --  
Paperback, Deckle Edge CDN $15.85  
MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged CDN $17.63  
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Book Description

Feb. 10 2009
Sarah Summers is enjoying a holiday on a Nigerian beach when a young girl named Little Bee crashes irrevocably into her life. All it takes is a brief and horrifying moment of crisis — a terrifying scene that no reader will forget. Afterwards, Sarah and Little Bee might expect never to see each other again. But Little Bee finds Sarah’s husband’s wallet in the sand, and smuggles herself on board a cargo vessel with his address in mind. She spends two years in detention in England before making her way to Sarah’s house, with what will prove to be devastating timing.

Chapter by chapter, alternating between Little Bee’s voice and Sarah’s, Chris Cleave wholly and caringly portrays two very different women trying to cope with events they’d never imagined. Little Bee is experiencing all the fullness and emptiness of the rich world for the first time, and her observations are hopeful, charming and piercing: “Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl,” she says: “Everyone would be pleased to see me coming.”

Sarah is more cynical and disheartened, a successful magazine editor trying to find meaning in the face of turmoil at home and work. As the story develops, however, we learn about what matters most to her, including her fierce, protective love for her funny little son (“From the Spring of 2007 until the end of that long summer when Little Bee came to live with us,” Sarah says, “my son removed his Batman costume only at bathtimes.”). Sarah is trying to find herself as much as Little Bee is — and, unexpectedly, each character discovers a ray of hope in the other.

What follows when Little Bee comes back into Sarah’s life is a powerful story of reconciliation and healing, but it is mixed in with a generous helping of satire about the daily difficulties of modern life. This is a novel about important issues, from refugee policy to the devastating effects of violence, but more than that, it does something only great fiction can: Little Bee teaches us what it is like to live through experiences most of us think of only as far off disasters in the news.

As ever, the author says it best: “It’s an uplifting, thrilling, universal human story, and I just worked to keep it simple. One brave African girl; one brave Western woman. What if one just turned up on the other’s doorstep one misty morning and asked, Can you help? And what if that help wasn’t just a one-way street?”

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From Amazon

Amazon Best of the Month, February 2009: The publishers of Chris Cleave's new novel "don't want to spoil" the story by revealing too much about it, and there's good reason not to tell too much about the plot's pivot point. All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn't explain to the girls from her village because they'd have no context for its abundance and calm. But she shows us the infinite rifts in a globalized world, where any distance can be crossed in a day--with the right papers--and "no one likes each other, but everyone likes U2." Where you have to give up the safety you'd assumed as your birthright if you decide to save the girl gazing at you through razor wire, left to the wolves of a failing state. --Mari Malcolm


"A very special book indeed. Profound, deeply moving and yet light in touch, it explores the nature of loss, hope, love and identity with atrocity its backdrop. Read it and think deeply."
-The Bookseller (UK)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, compelling.... Feb. 23 2009
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Wow....this is a book you need to read. Yes - need.

Quoting from the flyleaf of Little Bee:

"We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something , 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. Two years later, they meet again. The story starts there. Once you have read it you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how it unfolds."

Okay I was sceptical when I first saw the flyleaf, but then I started to read, and I couldn't put it down. And guess what? - I 'm going to honour the request to not tell you what happens. I know - what kind of review is that? But I think this book is a journey every reader should take on their own. What I will tell you is that author Chris Cleave has created a powerful, moving, exceptional story. The idea was inspired by his childhood in West Africa and by a visit to a British immigration detention centre. The character of Little Bee and her views of the world and life are heartbreaking and compelling. Cleave has created amazing prose, such as:

"Learning the Queen's English is like scrubbing off the bright red varnish from your toenails, the morning after a dance. It takes a long time and there is always a little bit left at the end, a stain of red along the growing edges to remind you of the good time you had."

The narrative moves between Little Bee and Sarah. What is interesting are their differing views on the same events. All of the supporting characters, Sarah's husband, lover and son are all powerfully written, provoking strong reaction and emotion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An audiobook to remember March 25 2013
Format:Audio CD
Little Bee is about a Nigerian refugee. There are two main characters telling her story: herself and a British woman, Sarah. Each has a chapter and the chapters intertwine sequentially.
I've seen reviews with complaints, I guess no one was actually talking about the audiobook which I found fascinating.
I was happy for the bookmark feature as this book has tremendously beautiful metaphors that I wanted to remember. It is well read and well written. It generates feelings, emotions; it makes you laugh, it makes you cry. If this is not great literature then I do not know what is.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing...accomplished...unforgettable. Jan. 3 2009
By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This novel, told from multiple points of view, sears in at least as many ways, testimony to the author's abilities.

Having lived in the UK, I found myself nodding along with some of the sections, while wincing in others. 'Little Bee' manages to inform without resorting to preaching, and even the heightened drama bits were executed so well as to retain their effectiveness.

Mr. Cleave gets the voices right, gets the characters right, and in the end, gets the story right.

While not an 'easy read', the novel is more than worth the effort required to get through the heartbreaking passages. It reminds us of circumstances most are unfamiliar with, and of our -sometimes lacking- humanity.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't do much or me Sept. 1 2013
Verified Purchase
I just didn't find this particularly believable. The story is quite heavy and without it being believable, it ends up being jut a downer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Little Bee by Chris Cleave July 18 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book. It gives an insight into the troubles met by illegal immigrants. Some of the passages were difficult to read because of the brutality but necessary to the telling of the tale. I liked and empathized with the characters.
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3.0 out of 5 stars same book June 20 2013
By smv
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the same book in UK it goes under this name In North America its called Little Bee some books do change titles
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare 5 Star Read Jan. 18 2012
This novel captured me from beginning to end. Full of tiny little shocks and recognitions, the plot is haunting and the narrative switches from the two main characters. It is suggested that the plot not be revealed so that others may enjoy this book without foreknowledge. So I won't. Suffice to say it is a must read. And I would read again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Untold Story of the Dispossessed Oct. 21 2011
This is the first book I've read written by Chris Cleave, and found his crisp writing to be highly readable, entertaining, and at the same time Little Bee has that unmistakable power rekindling reader's interest exploring the painful reality that many fellow human beings go through every single day around the globe.

The central character Little Bee, whose real name is Udo, meaning peace, recollects childhood memories with her family, adventures with elder sister, and horror in the forms of boots and guns that came to their village, robbing her childhood innocence, while fleeing to a promised land does not bring that very promise of sheltering persecution from the paid thugs.

Involvement of a family of journalist, the 1 meter height "batman", gives this tragic story another dimension and perspective, from the eyes of a protector, who feels so helpless protecting a refugee child from the onslaught of endless bureaucracy, and bullets. Amid the gloom and waves of sorrow, also lies satire from Little Bee, whose "Queen English" describing the promised land, her native country's convoluted politics, though piercing, provide light way of responding to constricting cruelty with refreshing humor.

Great book and a great story! Kudos to the author Chris Cleave writing a courageous book for the dispossessed, and the world of refugees.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Little Bee will pollinate your imagination so your heart can blossom...
Outstanding. An engaging story about two women's lives intersecting, which is really about the unconsidered costs of globalization, and surviving unspeakable horrors with... Read more
Published 23 months ago by The Transformer
3.0 out of 5 stars "Like walking through a swamp"
1. "Little Bee" seemed a little more experience related - in comparison to books like "The Birth House" - which I found more rigid and academic
2. Pg. 78. Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2011 by Annuska
1.0 out of 5 stars Felt nothing for the characters
I felt nothing for the two main characters. I would have loved to either love them or hate them, but in the end, I felt so indifferent. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2011 by M. LeB
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
There are only a handful of books that I love as much as I loved Little Bee. The story is so engaging and poignant that I could not put it down, even after I was finished the... Read more
Published on July 28 2011 by Shelley T. Malo
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating
I read this book in a single sitting. I was gripped by the story and drawn in. This is a book that needs to be experienced, not just read. Read more
Published on July 12 2011 by Biogeek7
3.0 out of 5 stars good story but weak storytelling
Little Bee was a selection from my book club. While the story of oil-related conflicts in Nigeria was very interesting, the narrative didn't work for me and I found myself anxious... Read more
Published on May 16 2011 by Bookluvr
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent service
Even though I received the book with the cover cut, I had to say the service was really good. I presented a complain about the conditions of the book and I received the money back... Read more
Published on May 2 2011 by Pepe
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