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Little Bee
Cover of Little Bee
Little Bee
A Novel
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Millions of people have read, discussed, debated, cried, and cheered with Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee girl whose violent and courageous journey​ puts a stunning face on the worldwide refugee...
Millions of people have read, discussed, debated, cried, and cheered with Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee girl whose violent and courageous journey​ puts a stunning face on the worldwide refugee...
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Description-

  • Millions of people have read, discussed, debated, cried, and cheered with Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee girl whose violent and courageous journey​ puts a stunning face on the worldwide refugee crisis​.

    "Little Bee will blow you away." —The Washington Post
    The lives of a sixteen-year-old Nigerian orphan and a well-off British woman collide in this page-turning #1 New York Times bestseller, book club favorite, and "affecting story of human triumph" (The New York Times Book Review) from Chris Cleave, author of Gold and Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.

    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.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book

    one

    Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop insteadbut you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each others names.

    A pound coin can go wherever it thinks it will be safest. It can cross deserts and oceans and leave the sound of gunfire and the bitter smell of burning thatch behind. When it feels warm and secure it will turn around and smile at you, the way my big sister Nkiruka used to smile at the men in our village in the short summer after she was a girl but before she was really a woman, and certainly before the evening my mother took her to a quiet place for a serious talk.

    Of course a pound coin can be serious too. It can disguise itself as power, or property, and there is nothing more serious when you are a girl who has neither. You must try to catch the pound, and trap it in your pocket, so that it cannot reach a safe country unless it takes you with it. But a pound has all the tricks of a sorcerer. When pursued I have seen it shed its tail like a lizard so that you are left holding only pence. And when you finally go to seize it, the British pound can perform the greatest magic of all, and this is to transform itself into not one, but two, identical green American dollar bills. Your fingers will close on empty air, I am telling you.

    How I would love to be a British pound. A pound is free to travel to safety, and we are free to watch it go. This is the human triumph. This is called, globalization. A girl like me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstiles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi. Where to, sir? Western Civilization, my good man, and make it snappy.

    See how nicely a British pound coin talks? It speaks with the voice of Queen Elizabeth the Second of England. Her face is stamped upon it, and sometimes when I look very closely I can see her lips moving. I hold her up to my ear. What is she saying? Put me down this minute, young lady, or I shall call my guards.

    If the Queen spoke to you in such a voice, do you suppose it would be possible to disobey? I have read that the people around hereven kings and prime ministersthey find their bodies responding to her orders before their brains can even think why not. Let me tell you, it is not the crown and the scepter that have this effect. Me, I could pin a tiara on my short fuzzy hair, and I could hold up a scepter in one hand, like this, and police officers would still walk up to me in their big shoes and say, Love the ensemble, madam, now lets have a quick look at your ID, shall we? No, it is not the Queens crown and scepter that rule in your land. It is her grammar and her voice. That is why it is desirable to speak the way she does. That way you can say to police officers, in a voice as clear as the Cullinan diamond, My goodness, how dare you?

    I am only alive at all because I learned the Queens English. Maybe you are thinking, that isnt so hard. After all, English is the official language of my country, Nigeria. Yes, but the trouble is that back home we speak it so much better than you. To talk the Queens English, I had to forget all the best tricks of my mother tongue. For example, the Queen could never say, There was plenty wahala, that girl done use...

About the Author-

  • Chris Cleave is the author of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Gold, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Little Bee. He lives with his wife and three children in Kingston-upon-Thames, England. Visit him at ChrisCleave.com or on Twitter @ChrisCleave.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 10, 2008
    A violent incident on a Nigerian beach has tragic echoes in posh London in Cleave’s beautifully staged if haphazardly plotted debut novel. British couple Andrew O’Rourke and his wife, Sarah, are on vacation when they come across two sisters, Little Bee and Nkiruka, on the run from the killers who have massacred everyone else in their village—in the pay, it turns out, of an oil company seeking the land. Soon the killers arrive and propose a not-quite-credible deal: they will trade the girls if Andrew and Sarah each cut off a finger. Andrew can’t do it, but Sarah does, and the killers drag the girls away. So two years later, when Little Bee shows up at Sarah’s house on the day of the funeral for Andrew, who has killed himself, it seems almost miraculous. Later, however, it’s revealed that Little Bee has been hiding around the O’Rourke place, and that Andrew seeing her set off his suicide. Sarah nevertheless determines to help Little Bee get refugee status. Cleave has a sharp cinematic eye, but the plot is undermined by weak motivations and coincidences.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2008
    Cleave follows up his outstanding debut (Incendiary, 2005) with a psychologically charged story of grief, globalization and an unlikely friendship.

    The story opens in a refugee detention center outside of London. As the Nigerian narrator —who got her nickname "Little Bee " as a child —prepares to leave the center, she thinks of her homeland and recalls a horrific memory. "In the immigration detention center, they told us we must be disciplined, " she says. "This is the discipline I learned: whenever I go into a new place, I work out how I would kill myself there. In case the men come suddenly, I make sure I am ready. " After Little Bee 's release, the first-person narration switches to Sarah, a magazine editor in London struggling to come to terms with her husband Andrew 's recent suicide, as well as the stubborn behavior of her four-year-old son, Charlie, who refuses to take off his Batman costume. While negotiating her family troubles, Sarah reflects on "the long summer when Little Bee came to live with us. " Cleave alternates the viewpoints of the two women, patiently revealing the connection between them. A few years prior, Sarah and Andrew took a vacation to the Nigerian coast, not realizing the full extent to which the oil craze had torn the country apart. One night they stumble upon Little Bee and her sister, who are fleeing a group of rapacious soldiers prowling the beach. The frightening confrontation proves life-changing for everyone involved, though in ways they couldn 't have imagined. A few years later Sarah and Little Bee come together again in the suburbs of London, and their friendship —in addition to that between Little Bee and Charlie —provides some salvation for each woman. Though less piercing and urgent than his debut, Cleave 's narrative pulses with portentous, nearly spectral energy, and the author maintains a well-modulated balance between the two narrators.

    A solid sophomore effort, and hopefully a sign of even better things to come.

    (COPYRIGHT (2008) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from January 15, 2009
    Book clubs in search of the next "Kite Runner" need look no further than this astonishing, flawless novel about what happens when ordinary, mundane Western lives are thrown into stark contrast against the terrifying realities of war-torn Africa. Their marriage in crisis, Andrew and Sarah O'Rourke impulsively accept a junket to a Nigerian beach resort as a last-ditch attempt to reconcile. When machete-wielding soldiers appear out of the jungle and force them to determine the fate of two African girls, everyone's lives are irrevocably shattered. Two years later in a London suburb, one of the girls, now a refugee, reconnects with Sarah. Together they face wrenching tests of a friendship forged under extreme duress. Best-selling author Cleave ("Incendiary") effortlessly moves between alternating viewpoints with lucid, poignant prose and the occasional lighter note. A tension-filled dramatic ending and plenty of moral dilemmas add up to a satisfying, emotional read. Highly recommended for all libraries and book clubs. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 10/15/08.]Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA

    Copyright 2009 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from December 15, 2008
    Little Bee, smart and stoic, knows two people in England, Andrew and Sarah, journalists she chanced upon on a Nigerian beach after fleeing a massacre in her village, one grisly outbreakin an off-the-radar oil war. After sneaking into England and escaping a rural immigration removal center, she arrives at Andrew and Sarahs London suburb home only to find that the violence that haunts her has also poisoned them. In an unnerving blend of dread, wit, and beauty, Cleave slowly and arrestingly excavates the full extent of the horror that binds Little Bee and Sarah together. Acolumnist forthe Guardian, Cleave earned fame and notoriety when his first book, Incendiary, a tale about a terrorist attack on London, was published on the very day London was bombed in July 2005. His secondensnaring, eviscerating novel charms the reader with ravishing descriptions, sly humor, and the poignant improvisations of Sarahs Batman-costumed young son, then launches devastating attacks in the form of Little Bees elegantly phrased insights into the massive failure of compassion in the world of refugees. Cleave is a nerves-of-steel storyteller of stealthy power, and this is a novel as resplendent and menacing as life itself.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

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