Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Little Bee

I found this book disappointing. I think my reaction, however, is largely due to the publisher’s mismanagement of my expectations.

As you can see, the book has a cute, girly cover. The synopsis on the back gives away nothing of the novel’s content. Instead it says something cutesy about how when you read this book, you’re going to want to tell your friends about it – but don’t tell them what happens, because “the magic is in how the story unfolds.”

Well it's not cute, and there's no magic. Tragedy, horror, MAYBE a dim ray of hope. No magic.

Little Bee is about how the West treats immigrants – especially the ones who need asylum – and the particular brand of evil that exists in parts of Africa. It’s about the vast chasm between developed and developing countries, the dark politics of oil development, globalization, the plight of refugees. It’s about marriage and parenting, civility and ethics, depression and grief.

These are important topics, and the author treats them with respect – the writing is fluid, the characters are compelling, the story is narrated in two impressively distinct women’s voices, and the plot is dispensed at a pace that allows suspense (and dread) to build slowly but surely. Like I said, this is an important book, and quite moving. As one reviewer put it, Little Bee “makes you think about the world and your place in it, and about what we owe to one another as human beings on this increasingly small, spinning globe.” My only real gripe with this novel is that there are certain plot points that really don’t make sense, choices the characters make that are inexplicably thoughtless. I can live with that.

But gimmicky jacket is a terrible marketing misjudgment. I just wasn’t prepared for the awfulness of what happened to the characters, nor for the unhappy ending. And because my expectations were set so far from the reality of the book – I guess that left me disgruntled.


Blogger Cheri said...

I read this when you posted it but didn't comment. It really is a chick-lit cover, and "magic unfolds" sounds about as far from the book's actual content as you can get. Things like this always weird me out--isn't somebody getting paid to get this right?

Blogger Cheri said...

A shame too, since it sounds like a worthwhile read. Bummer for the author.


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