Little Bee

cover art
Chris Cleave
3
Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009

Books that don’t match their descriptions are extremely annoying, and this one especially so. The book jacket says, “It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.” And the beach scene really is exceedingly horrific. Unfortunately, the comic relief I was led to expect never followed. I failed to be even slightly amused by this story of Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee, whose life becomes entangled with a vacationing English couple.

That isn’t to say this isn’t a good book. After Little Bee’s entire family is killed, her sister in an especially horrid way, Little Bee stows away on a ship sailing for England. What’s funny? Upon her arrival she promptly enters a refugee camp where she lives for two years. Nothing “extremely funny” happens to her there either. She is released, but has no papers, and sets out to find the couple she had met on the beach in Nigeria.

Upon arriving at the home of Andrew and Sarah, Little Bee finds their lives in turmoil. Andrew has committed suicide and three-year-old Charlie refuses to take his batman costume off. It’s not funny. The rest of the story revolves around Little Bee’s struggle to stay in London because her return to Nigeria would mean certain death. Nothing to laugh about here.

Events throughout vacillate between hopeful and hopeless and in the end the future for Little Bee is uncertain at best. While I found the book to be overwhelmingly sad and depressing, it offered a glimpse of another culture and world events. I appreciated that Sarah and Little Bee show how one person can have a positive influence on things bigger than herself.

Written by Helen H.

Fun fact: I adore furry faces.