Tuesday, August 17, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 30


Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is a look at humanity, a tug-of-war between sacrifice and selfishness. It is a commentary on refugees seeking asylum because their worlds are being destroyed by greed. 

Told in alternating first person accounts, the book tells the story of a Nigerian refugee {Little Bee} and a British woman {Sarah} whose lives cross on a beach in Nigeria and then again in England. Little Bee escapes the brutality of her country, only to be put in asylum in Britain. When she is finally released, she seeks out a couple {who saved her life in Nigeria} and discovers that all humans are faced with decisions about whether to help themselves or to help others. In the end, she is deported. You will have to read the story for yourself to learn the ending and decide whether or not you like the book...

I enjoyed the narratives, especially that of Little Bee's. My perception of Sarah is that she is an exaggeration of the selfishness that exists in the western world. The story was intriguing, but parts of it were far fetched {thus a good work of fiction}. 

I think the overall message is good, but I felt that the ending was less than hopeful.

Excerpts from the book:
In your country, if you are not scared enough already, you can go watch a horror film. Afterward you can go out of the cinema into the night and for a little while there is horror in everything... for one hour you are haunted, and you do not trust anybody, and then the feeling fades away. Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it. – Little Bee

Still shaking, in the pew, I understood that it isn't the dead we cry for. We cry for ourselves, and I didn't deserve my own pity. – Sarah

Tea is the taste of my land; it is bitter and warm, strong and sharp with memory. It tastes of longing. It tastes of the distance between where you are and where you are from. – Little Bee

Serious times. Once they have rolled in, they hang on you like low cumulus... You travel here and you travel there, trying to get out from under the cloud, and nothing works, and then one day you realize you've been carrying the weather around with you. – Sarah

"Ten percent. That's all I'm giving her. One finger in ten. Ten pounds in every hundred. Ten percent is hardly a wholehearted commitment." – Sarah
"Reevaluate that. Ten percent is the cost of doing business. Ten percent buys you a stable world to get on with your life in. Here, safe in the West – that's the way to think of it. If everyone gave ten percent, we wouldn't need to give asylum." – Lawrence

What is an adventure? That depends on where you are starting from. Little girls in your country, they hide in the gap between the washing machine and the refrigerator and they make believe they are in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around them. Me and my sister, we used to hide in a gap in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around us, and make believe that we had a washing machine and a refrigerator. You live in a world of machines and you dream of things with beating hearts. We dream of machines, because we see where the beating hearts have left us. – Little Bee

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