Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee is interesting and moving and finely constructed. It tells the story of a young girl from Nigeria who, as the story opens, has spent two years in an immigration detention center in southeast England. She has fled Nigeria after the destruction of her village.
Little Bee has come to England because she believes she will be murdered if she stays in Nigeria. Her only connection to England is a British couple, Andrew and Sarah, with whom she had a brief encounter on a Nigerian beach.When Little Bee and three other illegal immigrant girls are released from the detention center without the proper paperwork, Bee finds her way to Andrew and Sarah’s home in a London suburb.
Andrew is a journalist, and Sarah is the editor of a magazine for young women. They have a young son, Charlie, who believes he is Batman. Andrew and Sarah had taken a vacation to Nigeria in hopes of resuscitating their troubled marriage. When events unfolded horribly on the Nigerian beach, they returned to England, and Little Bee was left to escape from Nigeria on her own.
Little Bee is told from the perspectives of both Sarah and Bee. As the action unfolds in the present, we learn the details of the story from the past, and the past is quite grim. This book raises the hope that Bee can begin a happy new life in England. It certainly seems possible and the book is worth reading to find out.
The characters are interesting and sympathetic. The only part of this novel that seemed off to me was the naivete of Andrew and Sarah. They are both intelligent, educated people and yet they took a vacation to a Nigerian beach resort? Whatever! This book has been a bestseller and a favorite of book clubs everywhere, so read it if you have the opportunity.
Published in hardcover-Simon & Schuster-2009
Softcover edition-Simon & Schuster-2010