Monday, February 23, 2009
Little Bee - Chris Cleave
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.
Little Bee is shortlisted for both the Costa Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Newly released from Random House Canada.