18 reviews

Little Bee
by Chris Cleave

Published: 2009-08-25
Paperback : 288 pages
22 members reading this now
37 clubs reading this now
39 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 15 of 18 members
Sarah Summers is enjoying a holiday on a Nigerian beach when a young girl named Little Bee crashes irrevocably into her life. All it takes is a brief and horrifying moment of crisis ? a terrifying scene that no reader will forget. Afterwards, Sarah and Little Bee might expect never to see ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


Sarah Summers is enjoying a holiday on a Nigerian beach when a young girl named Little Bee crashes irrevocably into her life. All it takes is a brief and horrifying moment of crisis ? a terrifying scene that no reader will forget. Afterwards, Sarah and Little Bee might expect never to see each other again. But Little Bee finds Sarah's husband's wallet in the sand, and smuggles herself on board a cargo vessel with his address in mind. She spends two years in detention in England before making her way to Sarah's house, with what will prove to be devastating timing.

Chapter by chapter, alternating between Little Bee's voice and Sarah's, Chris Cleave wholly and caringly portrays two very different women trying to cope with events they?d never imagined. Little Bee is experiencing all the fullness and emptiness of the rich world for the first time, and her observations are hopeful, charming and piercing: ?Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl,? she says: ?Everyone would be pleased to see me coming.?

Sarah is more cynical and disheartened, a successful magazine editor trying to find meaning in the face of turmoil at home and work. As the story develops, however, we learn about what matters most to her, including her fierce, protective love for her funny little son (?From the Spring of 2007 until the end of that long summer when Little Bee came to live with us,? Sarah says, ?my son removed his Batman costume only at bathtimes.?). Sarah is trying to find herself as much as Little Bee is ? and, unexpectedly, each character discovers a ray of hope in the other.

What follows when Little Bee comes back into Sarah's life is a powerful story of reconciliation and healing, but it is mixed in with a generous helping of satire about the daily difficulties of modern life. This is a novel about important issues, from refugee policy to the devastating effects of violence, but more than that, it does something only great fiction can: Little Bee teaches us what it is like to live through experiences most of us think of only as far off disasters in the news.

As ever, the author says it best: ?It's an uplifting, thrilling, universal human story, and I just worked to keep it simple. One brave African girl; one brave Western woman. What if one just turned up on the other's doorstep one misty morning and asked, Can you help? And what if that help wasn?t just a one-way street??

From the Hardcover edition.

Amazon Best of the Month, February 2009: The publishers of Chris Cleave's new novel "don't want to spoil" the story by revealing too much about it, and there's good reason not to tell too much about the plot's pivot point. All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn't explain to the girls from her village because they'd have no context for its abundance and calm. But she shows us the infinite rifts in a globalized world, where any distance can be crossed in a day--with the right papers--and "no one likes each other, but everyone likes U2." Where you have to give up the safety you'd assumed as your birthright if you decide to save the girl gazing at you through razor wire, left to the wolves of a failing state. --Mari Malcolm

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

What could our country do to make the immigration laws more fair for those who have had to flee for their own safety?
by lhairtrucker (see profile) 06/04/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Beautifully written and makes you think"by Amanda B. (see profile) 07/15/12

Chris Cleave writes very eloquently. Readers will enjoy the way the plot develops and becomes intertwined as you discover the relationships among the characters. The only critique that can be made is that... (read more)

  "Little Bee"by Linda W. (see profile) 06/04/12

The book held my interest. At times I was irritated with the characters.It is very sad to think that these things happen in our country.

  "Not a good read"by Tally M. (see profile) 04/17/12

While I found this book to be a "fast" read, it was not a good one. I found the characters to be flat, and the ending to be atrocious. I was also expecting something with a bit more humour and light-heartedness,... (read more)

  "If you want a good cry..."by Lisa M. (see profile) 03/28/12

The book was incredible - I read the whole thing in 4 nights. However, I also cried like a baby each of those 4 nights. Makes you feel lucky for the country we live in.

  "Little Bee"by Jackie G. (see profile) 03/26/12

I could hardly put the book down. Chris Cleave is an incredible writer. You will enjoy every minute of this read.

  "Unbelievably Cruddy Ending"by Susie B. (see profile) 03/20/11

Don't waste your time. Not only does the author drone on and on about things that don't really matter to the story, there is never a real story or real point being made except pointless things...that... (read more)

  "Little Bee"by Lisa W. (see profile) 02/09/11

Little Bee is an unpredictable book. The events that take place in the lives of the characters are realistic and unforeseen. The author has a wonderful way of looking at things and makes some profound... (read more)

  "NOT WHAT YOU THINK BY TITLE"by georgeann s. (see profile) 01/12/11

  "Annoying"by Susan C. (see profile) 12/03/10

I found the characters one-dimensional and their decisions/choices annoying and unsympathetic. Too many plot points were contrived and unbelievable. I just didn't buy it.

  "chapter six"by Colleena P. (see profile) 11/07/10

We enjoyed the book but didn't like some of the characters

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).



Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...