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Little Bee: Can’t Tell You Nada ’bout It.

Little Bee,

I like your marketing. Well done.

You have more mystique than an Apple launch.

The cover on the back tells you: “Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.”

It’s like an engraved invitation to a page turner.

But how to review it without violating some secret Little Bee pact?

Some of our own BookSnobs have suggested this book and I have passed it again and again. The motivating factor? A woman in my book store who, unsolicited, said “Best book I read all year” while I had it in my hands. But the second reason was more powerful. Chris Cleave wrote a *stupendous* book named Incendiary that I recommended again and again. It was also terrifying subject matter and a real page turner. So, I jumped in.

But how to describe a book where you can’t really tell what it is about?

Um, it doesn’t really matter because I am not strongly recommending you read this book.

If your book group selects it, never fear, you will enjoy it and have a great discussion. But I’m pretty confident it won’t be the ‘best book you have read all year’. (I digress: I suggested to the women she read Let the Great World Spin…is she out blogging about what a lame recommender I am???)

The first 100 pages you really can’t put this book down. Right around there, when you are taken to the scene in Africa which I can’t tell you about but I can assure you, is a bit harrowing, I had to put the book down two times. I literally was collecting myself a bit. The writing is that crisp, suspenseful and captivating. It captures you like a movie captures you–blocking your eyes from a potentially threatening scene, waiting for it to be over.

But by page 200, you can’t help thinking that none of this could be even remotely real. It is kind of bizarre story built on a bizarre story built on a bizarre story. And it lost its impact.

So, how is that for unsatisfying?

You don’t know what the book is about at all, do you?

Okay, well, fughedabout the Little Bee secret pact. Here is the broad strokes. Woman on vacation with husband in Nigeria trying to save their marriage. On the beach, they run into locals who threaten them and two young Nigerian girls they encountered at the same time. Tough choices are made as to who is saved, hurt or otherwise. The story picks up with young Nigerian woman stealing away illegally to England and reconnecting with couple. Not exactly the ideal situation for a reunion. Small son involved adds to the anxiety.

Well, if you can’t stand not knowing what happens–definitely will be a page turner for August. But can’t say it is light beach reading.

Otherwise, I say take one step back and pick up Cleave’s Incendiary. But bear in mind you need an iron stomach for that one too.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jo Anne Jones #

    I completely agree. I didn’t like this book at all. Our book club loved, loved, loved, “Let the Great World Spin”, which I recommended based on this blog. I read it once, and then a second time, because I reviewed it for our book club. An amazing book. But my favorite book of all time was “The Corrections”…so I can’t wait for Jonathan’s next book. By the way….I really enjoy your blog and take it to heart when filling my Kindell.

    August 3, 2010
    • Thanks JoAnn! I am about to publish a list of upcoming titles I want to read as well. So stay tuned and you can add your suggestions to the list!

      August 4, 2010
  2. Regan #

    I agree, Katy and Jo Anne. There was something about this book that fell flat for me. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief…
    The characters in Let the Great World Spin were more alive somehow.
    Also, as a companion to Colum McCann’s book, you must see the movie “Man on Wire”. Amazing.

    August 4, 2010
    • Man on the Wire was a GREAT follow up to the book–I meant to post it so thanks for mentioning it.(and welcome home. almost!)

      August 4, 2010
  3. I agree with your review totally. I thought the woman’s lover was totally annoying and could not relate to that part of that story at all.

    And then the last part, when they return to Africa, I felt was completely unbelievable.

    Little Bee was the only character I cared about, but once Cleave took the focus off her, the book lost its focus as well.

    Great review!

    August 4, 2010
    • Yes, Little Bee had a great voice, particularly in the Immigrant Center.And you nailed it, her lover was a drip. His ‘conflict’ with Little Bee, lame.

      August 4, 2010
  4. Heather #

    Well, I am in the first half of this book for my book club and can’t put it down. I hope the clarity doesn’t melt as I’ve come to really care about what will happen by the end. Will let ya know if I loved it til the end. Right now, I am still just so happy to read fiction from cover to cover after getting back to the opportunity my new commute presented 2 years ago that if I make it past 150 pages this quickly, that means something about a book really speaks to me. -book slug

    August 6, 2010
    • I’m hopeful you will keep loving it. If I had reviewed it at 100pp, I would have told everyone to go buy it. It’s an awesome pace and suspense to keep up the whole way through. Let me know….

      August 6, 2010
  5. maryt #

    I thought this book was fantastic and much more believable than Let the Great World Spin. A multi-dimensional book for various topics of discussion. The author wrote about two worlds and did it very well. It amazed me that he wrote about two women from a woman’s point of view. He does have a wonderful way of writing that makes one think. and some of his writing also can resemble beautiful prose. I also read Incendiary and will greatly look forward to his next novel.

    August 21, 2010
    • Glad you liked it. I do agree with you on the woman’s perspective from him. I think he is a talented writer….

      August 21, 2010
  6. Katy – was splurging on myself with a book purchase and thought “hey better check with the Book Snob”! SO glad I did…just know I can trust your opinion…I don’t get to read that much so it better be good!

    August 24, 2010
  7. Ok, I was strong armed/shamed into reading this God forsaken book and I got 90% there (no page numbers in Kindle land) and it became so utterly ridiculous. So impossibly implausible (really? you’re taking your 4 year old son to the country where all of this nasty business went down in the first place? Right.), I kept waiting for it to be a dream sequence, but it wasn’t. So annoyed. And all of that preciousness around not telling about the plot? DOUBLE annoying. I shoulda listened to BookSnob.

    April 13, 2011
    • Told you! Told you! this book was L-A-M-E

      April 30, 2011
  8. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in
    Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to
    let you know. The layout look great though!
    Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Thanks

    May 6, 2013

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  1. BookSnob’s Best Reads 2010–Or Your Money Back Guaranteed « BookSnob.

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