Little Bee, Chris Cleave

This was one of those books I saw everywhere before I finally picked it up. You can see how it would catch my eye – while I’m not really a fan of orange, I love the cover design. It’s beautiful! And then there’s the inside flap – very coy. It assures you that, while not too much of the story can be divulged, it’s worth reading because its magic unfolds as the facts come out. Well. This coy and alluring book turned out to be a big tease.

Within the first few pages it became clear this would be a somewhat mysterious story of two women and the tragic event that brought them together. One is a teenaged Nigerian refugee who finds herself in the UK, the other a recently widowed young mother whose kid thinks he’s Batman. Sounds promising, right?  Wrong! Though some parts were surprisingly well-written, the characterization was such that I didn’t feel connected to anyone in the story. Everyone (and I mean everyone, not just the protagonists!) was so pitifully selfish that no lessons were learned, and everyone got hurt at some point. The whole time I felt like slapping these women out of their apathy. The author made no apparent attempts at capturing the readers’ sympathies. Further, much of the dialogue seemed completely forced and unreal. Whole passages were confusing to follow. If Cleave was trying to say something about the terrible state of our world and the people who make it so, he failed. Little Bee is nothing more than a depressing case study on pathetic losers. But by all means, if you like that sort of thing – read it.

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