JANE & CARIN

In a short blurb? We talk books.

Am Reading // Little Bee

I am really really excited about reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I think I may have a new author crush. (Guess I had to let go of you at some point, Sara Gruen.) After taking a glance at some others’ reviews, I am a little nervous that the enchanting beauty of the first few chapters will not carry through until the final pages, or that the plot will end up not being all I want it to be. But for now, I am more than pleased.

Little Bee opens with: “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 instead — but 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. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names” (1).

From there, you get the first taste of Cleave’s style and the first look into one of his two main characters, Little Bee, a young Nigerian refugee who has learned the Queen’s language so she can “tell you a real story.” “Who says a Nigerian girl must speak in fallen English, as if English had collided with Ibo, high in the upper atmosphere, and rained down into her mouth in a shower that half-drowns here and leaves her choking up sweet tales about the bright African colors and the taste of fried plantain? Not like a storyteller, but like a victim rescued from the flood, coughing up the colonial water from her lungs?”  (8).

In the same chapter, you meet other refugees and get a hint that their stories are all the same:

the-men-came-and-they-
burned-my-village-
tied-my-girls-
raped-my-girls-
took-my-girls-
whipped-my-husband-
cut-my-breast-
I-ran-away-
through-the-bush-
found-a-ship-
crossed-the-sea-
and-then-they-put-me-in-here.

Or some such story like that.” (11).

(I’m sorry, but did anyone else feel a haunting echo of Ntozake Shange there?)

In the next chapter, we meet Sarah, an English woman whose life is clearly intertwined with Little Bee’s — though the reader is not yet sure how — and if I quoted all the passages in that chapter I loved, you would be reading this post for another 20 minutes. Let’s suffice it to say that in the first 40 pages of his book, Cleave made me rethink my life and cry shamelessly on a train full of semi-concerned passengers.

I will keep you all posted as I continue Cleave’s story. Until then…

Happy reading, 

Carin 

 

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This entry was posted on August 28, 2011 by in Book Reviews, Carin, Currently Reading, Fiction and tagged , , , , , .

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Words We Like

“I think it makes more sense to write what you don’t know. To write what makes you uneasy, what you wonder about, what keeps you awake at night."

— Lois Lowry, at the BEA Children’s Book and Author Breakfast

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