Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee (large)Little Bee by Chris Cleave is going to be one of my favorite books this year.  Hands down one of the BEST books that I have read in a while.

I first noticed Little Bee when it was first released a year ago because how could I ignore a cover like that?  As soon as I saw this cover, I knew I would like it.  And then the buzz was really good but yet I never managed to read it right away.  SHAME on me for waiting a year to read it because this was MY kind of book.  I loved everything about it.

But the thing is, I really can’t tell you anything about it.  Right on the back cover:

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.

I didn’t know ANYTHING about this book before opening it and I was so GLAD that I didn’t.  So I’m not going to spoil it for you either.

The only thing that I will say is that the book is about war, marriage, the refugee system in Britain and the connections that are made between people.  It’s a tough subject matter with truly heartbreaking scenes but interspersed with hilarious moments.  I was truly caught up within a huge range of emotions from laughing out loud to gasping in horror.

(And for those of you who have read the book will understand when I say that my boys are huge into batman and literally were wearing their batman costumes around the house while I was reading this one.  So it truly made for a complete immersion experience.)


And if you’re wondering even more what batman has to do with the book, then you’ll just have to read it!

I seriously just want to point you over to Rebecca’s review because she says exactly what I would want to say about the book but so much better than what I can at the moment:

Little Bee is beautiful, awful, hopeful, devastating, and utterly unforgettable. Cleave juxtaposes gorgeous, almost poetic prose with a truly horrific story that is made bearable by moments of great humor and warmth, many of which are provided by Sarah’s son Charlie, a four-year-old who is convinced he is Batman.

Read Little Bee for the language and the variety of voices that are so incredible you’ll want to wrap yourself up with them and stay for days. Read it for Cleave’s ability to tell a story that is framed by politics but that is ultimately about people. Read it because it does all the things fiction is supposed to do and then some. From the striking cover to the very last word, Little Bee is intense, satisfying, and not to be missed. This is a story you will carry with you for the rest of your reading days.

I couldn’t agree more!

Loved it, loved it, loved it.  I hope you love it too.  And if you don’t . . . well, maybe I’d rather not know about it.  :)

I was fortunate to go hear Chris Cleave at The Kings English Bookshop this past month.  Hands down one of the best authors I’ve heard speak. And a genuinely nice guy. And you know how some authors should never narrate or even read their own books out loud?  Cleave was superb during his reading.  I’ve included a lot of video for you to watch if interested.  Lots of fun stuff.  I had not read the book when I went and there were no spoilers.  When he reads it’s only in the first chapter.  His voice is a bit quiet so you’ll want to turn your volume up pretty high.

On how we used to view and treat asylum seekers:

On how Britain now treats its asylum seekers compared to decades ago:

On why he writes fiction. I loved the story of his little boy in this one:

On writing Little Bee, part 1:

On writing Little Bee, part 2:

Chris reads the first chapter of Little Bee which is told from Little Bee’s viewpoint. Loved seeing how he, as the author, envisions the book to be read. Worth watching the whole thing:

Chris reading from the second chapter of Little Bee which is told from Sara’s viewpoint:

Such a good book!!

Have you read it?

Links of interest: Chris Cleave website, more book blogger reviews.
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster February 16, 2010 (originally published February 10,2009)
Paperback, 304 pages. ISBN 1416589643
Source copy: Purchased
Little Bee
is available from your favorite independent bookstore, Powell’s, and Amazon.


  1. Well, now I must read this. But more importantly, YOUR BOYS ARE INSANELY ADORABLE. I absolutely cannot get enough of them in those costumes!!!!! Cheeks!!!

    on March 7th, 2010 at 5:32 am
  2. Fantastic post! Little Bee (The Other Hand in the UK) was one of my favourite books in 2009.

    The video clips you have included are fantastic – I love it when authors are good at speaking. I am going to try to ensure I go and listen to him sometime soon.

    I know what you mean about having little boys around when reading this book. My boys are the same age as yours, so I found I was especially emotional when I read any scene where the little boy was present.

    I’ve just bought Incendiary – I have heard it is even more emotional than Little Bee. I’m not sure how that is possible, but I look forward to finding out!

    on March 7th, 2010 at 5:46 am
  3. I loved this book too! It just ran the whole gamut of emotions like you said, and it was so powerful. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a definite favorite.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 5:55 am
  4. I loved this book so much-definitely favorite of 2009–and you wrote a great review. We sold more copies of LITTLE BEE in hardcover than any other adult fiction book, because we all liked it that much. I loved your connection with your own little batman(batmen). Any mother has to be touched by those scenes in the book.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 8:43 am
  5. Shame on you and me. I bought this book when it first came out and just now read it. I loved it too. I’m totally jealous that you got to see Chris Cleave!

    on March 7th, 2010 at 8:44 am
  6. Fabulous videos — thanks so much for sharing them. I would have loved to have seen him in person. I liked the book, but did not love it. I’m now trying to remember where the humor in the book was… I don’t remember laughing.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 8:59 am
  7. I just told Candace that I convinced my mom to buy this book a couple of days ago here in Maui to read on the flight back, with the knowledge that I will get to read it when she is done! The reviews of this book have been amazing, yours included. I can’t wait to read it.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 10:13 am
  8. Yes, I did read it after someone at Random House raved about it. I was very curious. It really is a heart wrenching story.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 10:22 am
  9. 1) That picture is priceless, and it’s exactly how I pictured Charlie.

    2) Thanks for the shout-out! I’m glad you loved the book as much as I did. It’s fun to see the conversation about it picking up again, even with folks who loved it not-so-much, not that it’s out in paperback.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 12:57 pm
  10. Candace!!!!!!!!!! Me too! I don’t remember ANY humor. :)

    on March 7th, 2010 at 1:01 pm
  11. I am glad to hear that this book is that amazing. It was my book club choice this month, and I didn’t know what to pick. Then I saw LITTLE BEE on a website and chose it. I am so glad I did now. I haven’t started it yet, but I can’t wait too. I am currently reading HALF THE SKY. This is non-fiction but I truly believe this book is changing my life. And that’s hard to say about a book.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 1:18 pm
  12. Ohhh, I just bought this book, but need to read a few others before I can get to it!

    on March 7th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
  13. I picked this up from the library a week or two ago and haven’t read it yet. It is one I have toyed with nominating at book club and your review just sealed the deal.

    on March 7th, 2010 at 3:51 pm
  14. I love the back cover blurb! How could you NOT want to read a book after that?

    on March 7th, 2010 at 5:18 pm
  15. I have added this one to my wishlist. It sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I’ve seen this book around lately, and everyone has great things to say about it. Shall I head over to Book Depository???

    on March 7th, 2010 at 5:37 pm
  16. Wow, a book that is too good to say anything about… sounds like it’s going on the to-read list!

    on March 7th, 2010 at 8:56 pm
  17. [...] LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave.  The lives of a British woman and a Nigerian girl collide. [...]

    on March 8th, 2010 at 12:22 am
  18. I’ve had an ARC of this since before it came out and still haven’t read it, isn’t that terrible? At least the ARC was actually sent to me for review, I guess, I got it for free at a bookstore with a purchase. When you say it is your kind of book that gives me great hope that I’ll really enjoy it, even though Candace and Amy didn’t love it. I’m hoping that knowing that they didn’t like it that much will make me like it MORE, because my expectations have been ever so slightly lowered.

    on March 8th, 2010 at 10:34 am
  19. This one has been making the rounds at my work. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    on March 8th, 2010 at 12:02 pm
  20. Thank you for not spoiling anything in your review. This one is on my TBR pile and I look forward to reading it even though I know the one part will be difficult to read. P.S Batman and Robin are adorable!!!

    on March 8th, 2010 at 5:55 pm
  21. So glad I just got this one from the library last week!

    on March 8th, 2010 at 11:23 pm
  22. Shame on you, Kathy and Me! :)

    My husband brought this back for me from his September 2009 Toronto trip and I didn’t read it until the end of January 2010. It was so good I didn’t read anything for over a week. I wanted to relish the feelings the book gave me and not muddy them up with words from anyone else.

    It’s only March but it’s one of my favorite reads this year.

    on March 14th, 2010 at 11:31 pm
  23. This book was too much for me. The subject and the language. I guess I’m a wienie. Could not finish it.

    on March 16th, 2010 at 11:54 pm
  24. I’m in your camp on this one. Loved it! I can just imagine reading it with two little batman clad guys running around the house ;-)

    This book hit so many emotions for me. I loved Little Bee’s observations. I wanted to slap some of the characters. It made me smile, it made my heart break.

    This book is one of the few that made me wish I had a book group to talk it over with. There’s just so much fodder for discussion with this one.

    on March 19th, 2010 at 1:09 pm
  25. [...] LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave.  The lives of a British woman and a Nigerian girl collide. [...]

    on March 28th, 2010 at 9:38 pm
  26. [...] LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave.  The lives of a British woman and a Nigerian girl collide. [...]

    on April 18th, 2010 at 11:12 pm
  27. [...] LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave.  The lives of a British woman and a Nigerian girl collide. [...]

    on April 25th, 2010 at 9:02 pm
  28. I am a Nigerian who grew up in Southern Nigeria where Little Bee’s character lived and i am appalled by the depiction of my country in this book. Nigeria is not a country filled with murdering thugs who cut off people’s fingers and local village girls who do not understand English and say “weh” to everything in ignorance. Not my country – this is a gross injustice

    on April 27th, 2010 at 9:54 pm
  29. Towmie, your post gave me great comfort. It is a relief to know that these things are not happening in Nigeria, and that this is work of fiction. I have read other comments from Nigerians who say the same thing. I only wish this kind of thing wasn’t going on anywhere in the world.

    on July 11th, 2010 at 6:36 pm
  30. [...] Maw Books Blog [...]

    on March 10th, 2011 at 2:30 am

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