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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. There is some violence in the book, but it is integral to the story. The ending is heartbreaking, uplifting and gives hope to our future.

Strong stuff? Yes it is - but it's a book you'll be glad you read. As I work with new Canadians every day, I will be recommending this book to co workers. It forces you to see the world through a different set of eyes.
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on March 25, 2013
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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on July 28, 2011
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 book. I felt so connected to the characters that the book stayed with me long after I read it.
The way the events of the story are unveiled is as captivating as the characters, all beautifully flawed and human. Cleave's ability to write a novel with such strong female protaganists is astounding, had I not known Cleave was male I might have thought that a woman wrote this novel, and now I really want there to be an Orange Prize for male authors so Cleave can be nominated.
I am grateful to Cleave for sharing this story and look forward to reading his other work.
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on February 4, 2011
Like the book jacket asks, I will not give away any part of this superbly written novel. However, I will say that this book is one of the most amazing, emotional, thought- provoking, intelligent, eloquent, honest, heart-wrenching, hopeful and essentially life changing books that I have ever read. It made me wonder what kind of a person I was, and what kind of a person would I be, faced with the same situations as these characters. I dare anyone to read this and not fall in love with Little Bee like I did.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon June 1, 2015
The book sets out to be deliberately opaque and mysterious...........ooh read this, don't tell anyone what happens it's so special, tell others about it but don't spoil it for them, etc etc etc.

A fantastic, thought-provoking read that stays with you for weeks and months afterwards, invading your thoughts at unexpected moments?

Or an extremely clever marketing ploy?

Being a grumpy, miserable cynic and having read the book - I choose marketing ploy.

Well then what to write...........A meets B and C, who are married to each other, at location X. D who is A's sister is present at the meeting, which is soon joined by E and another group we'll call the F's. A disagreement occurs. Fast forward a while, A contacts C, now in location Y. This upsets C greatly, and has a calamitous effect on him, B and her close friend G and her child H. The rest of the book introduces other minor characters that I shall refer to as I, J, K and L. (I might have missed out an M and a N, but none of these are major players, so don't worry too much.) The climax of the book involves A, B and H, along with some O's at location X.

Had the blurb presented the book in a more traditional fashion, I'm no marketing guru, but I would guess a fraction of the copies actually sold would have been. One of the characters in the book, G actually espouses the same opinion. The topic under debate, doesn't typically interest people, until such time as the right wing tabloids want to beat the drum and whip up some populist fury.
I would probably have passed it over.

That said, it was enjoyable enough, but perhaps I needed to be wearing my magician's cloak to feel the magic.Well, I wasn't.

3 from 5, must dash or I'll be late for Quidditch practise.

I do have another Cleave book on my shelf, Incendiary, as yet unread. I'm unsure what ploy enticed me to buy the book, but I'll need to check the blurb on the back to refresh my memory. I'm also unsure if my purchase of Incendiary predates my purchase of The Other Hand, not that it matters too much.

Seduced by the marketing fiends, I bought this new a few years ago.
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on January 21, 2011
I read this awhile ago and I still can't stop thinking about the characters. The story was so touching and gut-wrenching. It's about a young girl and her sister who encounters an affluent British couple after they wander outside the protected borders of their vacation resort. What happens to all of them is horrific. She manages to flee to America and ultimately becomes involved with the same couple. I read that it will be made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman. No doubt the movie will be just as riveting as the book was.
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on April 24, 2009
In my opinion, this is one of the best novels I've read in the past six months. The plot itself is not what makes this such a good book, but its depth, its symbolism, its philosophical message, and a healthy dose of sarcasm and cynicism give this novel some real bite.

I will admit, the story is slightly contrived. But one must look beyond to analyze the deeper meanings of the characters and what they say. In this way, Cleave is more artist and poet than he is storyteller with his diction and heavy use of metaphors. The concepts are abstract yet delivered in an interesting manner. For example, the protagonist Little Bee, is actually more philosophical than the adult main character Sarah. Charlie's Batman facade is symbolic of the inner and outer consciousness.

Just a wonderful Commonwealth novel with a deep philosophical message. If you like novels that really challenge you to think about the deeper meanings in life, this is the book for you.
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on June 7, 2010
The book jacket cover asks that readers not tell others about the story. I think it's a great marketing ploy as it creates curiosity in the potential reader. It worked for my book club and we picked it due to the mystery. I on the other hand would've liked to know certain facts about the story before diving in.

Yes it's about two women who's lives are connected. But I would've liked to know that the story is based in England and Nigeria as I have a fascination with locations of plots, etc.

I will honour the book jacket marketing ploy and not describe the plot or characters. I will however say that I was not wowed by the book. I appreciate it and enjoyed reading it but it was not a wow factor for me.
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on July 8, 2009
I heard about this book from Malaprop's (Bookstore in Asheville, NC.) summer flyer recommendations. AND I agree that this is the best book I have read in awhile. I had just finished and loved "Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven" and told everyone, You have to read this..and then there was "Little Bee". I just hope they don't try to make it into a movie. So deep and poetic, rough, smooth.....a long road.
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on January 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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