Chris Cleave wrote a compelling story about the intersection of a British married couple (Sarah and Andrew) and a Nigerian girl (Little Bee) who's running for her life. The writing was excellent and I loved the characters of Little Bee and Charlie, but ultimately I found this novel too bleak for my tastes. I like stories that put the characters through hell but deliver a satisfying (often happy or hopeful) ending, and this novel left me feeling a bit bereft.
First person POV alternates between Little Bee and Sarah, both with very distinct voices. Sarah's four year-old son Charlie (aka Batman) is a complete doll--I fell in love with his character the most.
Here are some of Little Bee's quotes I enjoyed:I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means,
I survived.The light made his skin look green, the color of a baby caterpillar just out of the egg.
Like a true survivor of horror, Little Bee calms herself by identifying a way to kill herself in each new environment in case the bad men come to get her. One day the detention officers gave all of us a copy of a book called LIFE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. It explains the history of your country and how to fit in. I planned how I would kill myself in the time of Churchill (stand under bombs), Victoria (throw myself under a horse), and Henry the Eighth (marry Henry the Eighth).
And Sarah's quotes:The war was four years old. It had started in the same month my son was born, and they'd grown up together. At first both of them were a huge shock and demanded constant attention but as each year went by, they became more autonomous and one could start to take one's eye off them for extended periods. Sometimes a particular event would cause me momentarily to look at one of the other of them--my son, or the war--with my full attention, and at times like these I would always think,
Gosh, haven't you grown?My son's screaming seemed to go on for a cruelly long time. I remember wondering if my mind would shatter with the noise, like a wineglass broken by a soprano.
Some really beautiful and thoughtful metaphors.