Friday, October 8, 2010

just finished: Little Bee

I began Little Bee by Chris Cleave earlier this week, reading twenty or so pages two evenings before bed. On the first of these nights I woke myself crying. On the second I woke in the haze of a nightmare. This is not a happy book.

In places, it is a funny book. In places it is a beautiful book. Despite positive reviews, I also found it to be an overwrought book, a little unbelievable in the economy of action, a little strangely plot-driven, a little tidy. But then, it is not tidy, because in a terrible way it is true,  and sometimes the truth requires the sort of writing that suspends us, queasy-stomached and blurry-eyed, in the agonizingly slow pace of its final pages. Sometimes, in the rush of our days' distractions, we need to be emotionally browbeaten.

Little Bee is the story of a London woman and a Nigerian refugee, bound by an improbable encounter in Africa and then an unusual reprisal in England. It is a story of self-sacrifice, of redemption, of the ridiculous. It is a story about language and stories.

Having finished the novel just moments ago, I am sitting wrapped in a blanket and very, very cold, very, very sad. I am wondering about the divide between ideals and action. I am wondering what to do.

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