Little Bee

Front Cover
Doubleday Canada, Feb 10, 2009 - Fiction - 271 pages
66 Reviews
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. 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.

A note from the author

I went to a concentration camp by mistake. As a student at Oxford University I’d take any paid work during the vacation, so one morning I climbed into a minibus with some other casual labourers, destination unknown. We passed through a razor-wire perimeter fence. Thin brown faces appeared in the morning mist. Fingers clawed the wire. The minibus dropped us into a crush of agitated people, pleading with us in half the languages on earth. Despair and confusion reigned.

This terrible place was a removal centre for asylum seekers. We’d been hired to serve canteen meals to people being returned to the murderous regimes they’d fled. These were the people my country had decided it wouldn’t help. It was hard to look them in the eye. Everyone ate with plastic spoons. It would have been brave to provide people in their predicament with anything sharper.

After detention in heartbreaking conditions, most would be forcibly deported to countries where many would be tortured and killed. Mass deportation continues to this day. It doesn’t take a genius to point out the parallel with the Holocaust. It doesn’t take a novelist to realise this isn’t terribly British.

What was remarkable, though, was the stoicism and sheer grace of some of these doomed people. Years later, it was a humbling experience and a fierce delight to research this novel. The refugees I heard from brought me to unexpected discoveries: the beauty of Nigerian English and Jamaican English, the startling graveyard humour of refugees, and the moral courage of the many citizens who help asylum seekers, in defiance of their authorities. 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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User Review  - JamieBH - LibraryThing

This was a powerful story. The characters were perfectly flawed allowing me to connect with them. The only issue I had with this novel was the ending; I was hoping for more. Overall one of the most touching novels I've read in a while. Read full review

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User Review  - suesbooks - LibraryThing

What the novel lacked in credibility it made up for in interest and teaching. I thought it a very worthwhile way to present the issues and tragedies faced by many immigrants. Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Chris Cleave was born in London and spent his early years in Cameroon. He studied Experimental Psychology at Balliol College, Oxford, and has worked as a barman, sailor, and internet person, and now writes a column for the Guardian newspaper. His debut novel Incendiary won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize, won the United States Book-of-the-Month Club’s First Fiction award for 2005 and is now a feature film. Chris Cleave lives in London with his wife and two children.

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