I stumbled across this wonderfully titled book by Chris Cleave and was so glad that I did.
The blurb on the back asks you not disclose what happens in this book so as not to spoil it. Now, I'm always a little cynical when I read things like this - does the plot have such a good twist that discussing what the story entails will truly ruin a good read? It could just be good marketing, and it did work - I picked up the book and bought it.
The story is a simple girl meets a couple on holiday and how that brief encounter affects their lives. The moment I read the first page I started an incredible journey that assaulted my senses. I needed to know what happened and would happen with Little Bee yet dreaded to find out; but Cleave's ability to build the suspense on what took place on that profound day (she met the holidaying couple) was brilliant.
The story brings Little Bee to the UK and Cleave brings into focus the immigration issue that the UK government faces. But the issue of immigration comes from the point of view of Little Bee and the people she meets when she arrives in Surrey. Part of the story is about how Little Bee learns English from reading newspapers and the dictionary and interpretations she misunderstands. I loved this. I often find it amusing how the English language has been so bastardized that we've accepted 'bad' English as the norm.
Whilst heartbreaking, it was also very funny in parts. Cleave's expertise on how a four year old lives his life as Batman was genius. I couldn't fault the logic of his quest to rid the world from the baddies...sometimes its the simple thing like a four years old observations to make you stop and think...he has a point - when did we stop thinking like that?
Having worked in a children's department which dealt with asylum seekers, I knew first hand what some children go through to get to the UK for want of a better life, but often finding that its just as hard when no-one wants you or believes your story. Yes, there are some who have made their stories up and they are the ones that make things harder for those who have been tortured and abused and generally live in fear for their lives.
This is a poignant, emotionally charged story. It made me shake my head in disbelief, smile, think, empathize...its brilliant. I hope I haven't given too much away with this review...!
NB. October 16th was the Boston Book Festival; I happened to be looking at some books and I pointed to Little Bee saying to my husband that I really enjoyed it. The lady behind the stall started to shake her head mouthing no...(she had recommended a book to me already) but was asked a question by someone else so didn't disclose what she wanted to say. I wished I had stayed back to ask her why she seemingly was against my purchasing the book...