Friday, October 28, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Cara: Book Review Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Last night was book club. I havent made to to a few bookclubs this year. Some months it's hard to get there. Although I love to read I have a hard time making time for reading. When I can sit down and read for awhile I think "I should really be doing something else". Or I think "I will do A,B and C then I will sit. Only for X amount of time." I probably should take my own advice and make some me time. Or put myself on my to do list like Jenn said. I'll probably put "put self on to do list" on my to do list and then never get around to do it. Ugh. Anyway....

So we read Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I liked it. I don't think I loved it. I wanted to love it. I had originaly started listening to it on CD in the car. That I loved. I love hearing the voices of the characters in their accents. But the whole CD thing didn't work out..not in my car long enough at a stretch to be able to listen and then half the time there are kids in the car who do not want to listen to my book, or can't keep quiet while I try to listen. Futile.

"Little Bee, a young Nigerian refugee, has just been released from the British immigration detention center where she has been held under horrific conditions for the past two years, after narrowly escaping a traumatic fate in her homeland of Nigeria. Alone in a foreign country, without a family member, friend, or pound to call her own, she seeks out the only English person she knows. Sarah is a posh young mother and magazine editor with whom Little Bee shares a dark and tumultuous past.

They first met on a beach in Nigeria, where Sarah was vacationing with her husband, Andrew, in an effort to save their marriage after an affair, and their brief encounter has haunted each woman for two years. Now together, they face a disturbing past and an uncertain future with the help of Sarah’s four-year-old son, Charlie, who refuses to take off his Batman costume. A sense of humor and an unflinching moral compass allow each woman, and the reader, to believe that even in the face of unspeakable odds, humanity can prevail."

The questions we discussed were:

1. In Britian, Little Bee was published under the title The Other Hand. Which do you think is a better title for the book? What aspects of the novel does each title highlight?

2. Why do you think Andrew was unable to cut off his finger but Sarah was able to? Do you think you would have?

3. Do you think Little Bee was as culpable in Andrew’s death as he was in her sisters?

4. Little Bee says of horror films, "Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it" (p. 45). Do you agree? Was reading this novel in any way a dose of horror for you? How did it help you reflect on the presence or lack of horror in your own life?

5. How did it affect your reading experience to have two narrators? Did you trust one woman over the other? Did you prefer the voice of one over the other?

6. Little Bee credits the small bottle of nail polish for “saving her life” while in the detention center (pg. 7) Is there any object or act that helps you feel alive and beautiful, even when everything else seems to be falling apart?

7. Little Bee figures out the best way to kill herself in any given situation, just in case “the men come suddenly”. How do these plans help Little Bee reclaim some power? Were you disturbed by this or were you able to find the humor in some of the scenarios she imagines?

8. “To have an affair, I began to realize, was a relatively minor transgression. But to really escape from Andrew, to really become myself, I had to go the whole way and fall in love” (pgs.161-162) Do you agree with Sarah that an affair is a minor transgression? How did falling in love with someone else help Sarah become herself? What role did Andrew play in perpetuating Sarah’s extramarital affair?

9. Does Sarah’s discovery of Andrew’s research and possible book redeem him at all in your eyes? Who did you like better, Andrew or Lawrence?

10. Suicide comes up several times in the novel. Do you think there is a difference in the refugee’s suicide in the barn and Andrew’s?

11. Of the English language Little Bee says “Every word can defend itself. Just when you go grab it, it can split into two separate meanings so the understanding closes on empty air. You are like sorcerers you have made your language as safe as your money” (pgs. 12-13) What do you think she means by this? Can you think of any examples of English words that defend themselves? Why is language so important to Little Bee?

12. What does Udo changing her name to Little Bee symbolize for you? How does her new name offer her protection? Do you think they name suits her?

While the book left me with some of what I think were horrific images (although one of my book club buddies would disagree) I really only felt a connection with Little Bee. I didn't love the other characters or even the little boy. And I want to love the characters. I like when a book stays with me for awhile after I read it. It did though bring to light things that go on in other parts of the world that I didn't really know about. It did make one realize how much we take for granted in our own little part of the world we live in. For example how we (well, not me) like to go to horror movies to scare the bejeezus out of ourselves, only to go home to our nice warm beds with a belly full of popcorn and Raisinettes. Some people live horror everyday. For real.

So maybe it's one you would like to try with your book group. I would give it a roll. It's not a hard read (like 216 pages or something like that)

Now I must get next month's book since this month I only have like 3 weeks to read it!!! Pressure!!!


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