Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Little BeeThis is one of those books where I have no idea what to say about it right after reading it, so I decide to wait until inspiration strikes, and then it doesn’t and then I’m like, I should really write about that book before all I can remember about it is its title.

And it’s hard to have anything really substantial to say about a book that all but has FIRST RULE OF LITTLE BEE: DON’T TALK ABOUT LITTLE BEE emblazoned on the cover, especially when I found myself disappointed by the book partially because I did know a Thing in advance that took a lot longer to get to than I had assumed, and so I spent lots of time being like, when is that darn Thing going to happen?

Maybe if we just talk in generalities? Let’s see if we can do that. The book fits a bit with the last book I read for this particular club, A Walk Across the Sun, in that it deals with white privilege and foreign girls who have been through terrible ordeals. But I think Little Bee does it better, focusing on the After part of the terrible things happening and digging more into the relationships between the characters and less into what happened to them.

The book’s narrative style, which bugged the heck out of me at first, really helps to do that by taking chronological order, shuffling it, throwing it up in the air, and then picking up only half of what fell. We go back and forth between two main characters in the narration, but sometimes we’re in the present and sometimes we’re in the recent past and sometimes we’re in the way past and sometimes we’re in all of them. It’s really confusing, but it also lets Cleave point out Things and then either go ahead and resolve them or dangle them in front of us tantalizingly/frustratingly, so I totally dig it now that I’m not trying to read it.

One thing I’m not sure about, though, is the fact that I kind of hated every character in the book except for Batman. It wasn’t the fantastic hate of A Confederacy of Dunces, but more just a dull throbbing exasperation with the whole situation and everyone in it, and so on the one hand I hope that’s what Cleave was going for but on the other I feel like it shouldn’t have been, because exasperating.

Is that general enough? I hope so. This book is old enough that you’ve probably already read it if you were interested in doing so, and if you weren’t I probably wouldn’t recommend it outside of a book club or something similar — it’s certainly not terrible but there are lots of other books I’d rather have read first.

If you have read it, let me know what you think, because there is a lot of stuff going on in that book! Comment away!

Rating: 6/10

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