Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book review: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Conventional wisdom warns us not to judge a book by it's cover, but that's typically exactly how I choose my reading material. A visually arresting cover or a good blurb on the back are a must. Luckily, Little Bee had the former and just enough of the latter to catch my interest.

The back basically tells you "we aren't going to tell you much about this book because we don't want to spoil the surprise, but trust us that you'll like it". That, to me, is a dangerous sales tactic because it sets you up for disappointment if the story isn't up to the hype, but in this case they were absolutely right.

All I knew was that the book deals with the repercussions of a chance meeting in Nigeria between an English woman and a Nigerian girl. I had a guess at their relationship before I started reading, and I was dead wrong. The story was much more--and much more powerful--than i had imagined. Like the back cover of the book, I'm left with telling you that I don't want to spoil it by giving out too much information about the plot.

Working first back in time and then forwards, the story is told in chapters that alternate between the two women's voices. The male author did a pitch-perfect job writing for his female characters. It's probably the best I've read of a male writer narrating through his female characters since Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone. It's a powerful story with well-written characters and a very engaging plot. I bought the book Wednesday night and finished it Thursday morning. I just couldn't put it down. Even now, several days later, the characters are still with me. Definitely worth reading.

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