January 27, 2011

Reading: Little Bee

I thought I should talk about a book, because um, this is The Reading Nest, after all. 2010 was sort of a slow year for me for reading novels.  I know I still read quite a few -- but darn if I can think of many right now.  I read a couple of the early books in the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series, which are fun and light, but not nearly compelling enough for me to keep going onward with all those many chubby little paperbacks.

Also, I want to try to tone it down, with the English-major term papers every time I discuss a book here.   I've mentioned it before, but it's a drag, when I really just want to say, "hi there, I read this book and here's my 2 cents," but instead turn it into a damn book report.

Soooo...Little Bee.  Hmmm.  On the fence.  Liked it enough that it was hard to put down, but see, it's hard to squash my inner English major.  I kept hearing the professor from my grad school program who always railed against what I guess he'd call "sociological fiction," or "IMPORTANT fiction," which usually meant any book written by or concerning minorities or Third World issues. 

Little Bee is the name of the narrator, a young girl about sixteen when the book begins.  She is a Nigerian immigrant who's been living in a British detention center after stowing away into the the country, to escape the horrors of her native land.  The action begins on the day when she is released from the detention center, out into the English countryside. 

Unlike her fellow detainees, Little Bee has studied and learned the Queen's English, and armed with only her language skills and the drivers license of a British man she met on a Nigerian beach, she sets out.  How she came to own the drivers license, and have any connection with the British man and his wife, Sarah, is the gist of the novel.

It's about Third World horrors, oil politics, immigration policies, First World guilt and culpability...you get the idea.  It's also about sadness and grief and savoring the world's beauty.  I guess I saw through the Important Message of the book a little too easily, which made me enjoy it less. Not that it wasn't moving, or affecting.

And I will give this disclaimer, to anyone hoping for a light, breezy read for their book club: this was the first book in a very long time to give me a nightmare. Pretty gruesome stuff described here, and it stayed with me, after I closed the book and shut out the lights at bedtime. 

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