I remember the first time I heard someone talk about Little Bee. I was sure the woman was talking about a children’s book (especially since she said she was reading it because it was her granddaughter’s favorite). I forgot about it for a while, but then I saw it at Target and read the back to see what it was all about. This is what I was greeted with:
“We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn't. And it's what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either.
The magic is in how it unfolds.”
As intended, my interest was immediately piqued.
It took me a while to get around to reading it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, if it was going to be worth it since they felt the need to hype it and be secretive as a means of promotion. Eventually, while perusing a used book store, I came across a mint condition copy and I just had to get it. It stayed in my pile for a month or so, and I finally got down to reading it last week.
I hate to repeat the quote above, but it’s true. Not knowing what was going to happen makes it that much more special (I don’t like spoilers of any kind with my TV shows, movies, or books). But I still want to tell you what I thought about it.
Much like my little review of Gone Girl, in which I made sure to share as little as possible.
The only thing those two books have in common is that we are guided by two different narrators, Little Bee and Sarah, who take turns by chapter to explain their lives and their stories. It made their story and their connection that much more compelling. I like the idea of alternating narrators, and I love how it works to make us feel anger, betrayal, love, and faith in the other characters through different eyes. This device has been used in a few books I’ve read, and I’ve enjoyed it every single time.
There isn’t a second of Little Bee that I found predictable or boring. I was consistently entertained throughout.
And considering Chris Cleave is a white British male, he portrays the voices of two completely different females (one a 16 year old African girl, the other a 32 British mom and working woman) very delicately and beautifully. I imagine it would be hard enough writing about a culture you aren’t a part of and have to do research on, but to do that and use the voice of the opposite sex is, as Little Bee would say, a good trick.
I would definitely recommend this book.
For a book that’s under 300 pages long, it manages to be touching, thought-provoking, and absolutely beautiful.
(If this helps, it was originally printed in the UK with the title The Other Hand.)