I just read Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I received the book for Christmas a few days ago from a friend who knows a lot about bees. I was going to wait to read it, but then I idly picked it up with my left hand while brushing my teeth, and ended up reading the first chapter in a trance, sitting on the floor and toothpaste forgotten.
I had to clean my teeth and run, but the book was burning in the back of my mind all day. When we finished our holiday visiting, I crawled into bed early to have my heart ripped out, over and over. Good writing, sometimes, is like good stitching, with the threads connecting threads in unexpected and beautiful ways.
Normally I have a policy against reading heartbreaking things, unless they are about fake worlds or fake things in real worlds. If I want to see how sad life is, I just have to stop reading, is the way I figure it. As remarkable and important as sad books are, having sad things presented to me in the most genius calculatedly precious and awe inducing way lets the bad things in too deep, and I’m left with that miserable mournful feeling sometimes for days.
The playful cover, title and back copy made me think Little Bee was a happy book with a happy ending, but SPOILER ALERT, I was tricked, it is NOT about cute little bitty bees at all.
However, if you like reading about horrible things in a beautiful way, you may enjoy impaling your heart on the lovable, abused and doomed characters in this novel. To put on my fancy book reviewer hat here, Cleave weaves together two narrators voices and moves us back and forth through their memories in a way that is simultaneously disorienting, disarming, and realistic. It is a vibrant meditation on privilege and fate; on resilience and guilt.
Now, because it is the holidays, here is a quote from the book for world peace: