Little Bee, by Chris Cleaves

Little Bee book cover

"We don't want to tell you what happens in this book.

It is truly special story and we don't want to spoil it."

Group Members:

Maddy Wood
Anne Ryan
Kate Dilworth
Claudia Lockwood
Katie Wharff *
Betsy Puelle
Holly Houston

Discussion Location: Ms. Houston's room 405

Major Characters:

Little Bee: Her real name is Udo. She is a native of Nigeria and has spent the last two years in a detention center in the United Kingdom after being caught aboard a ship sailing from Nigeria to England, attempting to run away.
Sarah: An editor of a popular woman's magazine in England, Sarah has to deal with the loss of her husband and having to raise her child all by herself. She also, has to deal with what happened in Nigeria years before.
Charlie: Charlie is the four year old son of Sarah who is always dressed up as Batman.
Andrew: The husband of Sarah, who takes his own life towards the beginning of the novel. Andrew and Sarah met Little Bee on a beach in Nigeria, and now years later she has come back into their lives.
Lawrence: Sarah's new love interest. She and Lawrence had been engaging in an affair even before Andrew was dead. He is a little unsettled about the fact that Little Bee has come back into Sarah's life.
Nkiruka: Little Bee's older sister, who died the same year that Andrew and Sarah first met Little Bee.


- What really happened at the end of the novel?
- How old is Little Bee when she meets Sarah and Andrew in Nigeria?

- How different do you think the book would be without Charlie?
- Do you find Lawrence to be selfish or just trying to look after Sarah?
- If Little Bee had told Sarah about witnessing Andrew's suicide earlier, what would have been different?
- Was Andrews death, in a sense, inevitable? Had he not died, how might the story have played out?
- What did Little Bee learn from Yvette at the detention center?
- Little Bee learned early on that in order to survive she must look good or talk good. How did learning to 'talk good' help her in her journey? What would it have been like if she didn't learn how to?

- How does having dual narrators help shape/develop the novel?
- Does Little Bee’s narration have more effect on the course of the novel than Sarah’s? Which reveals more?

- Do you think Sarah got closure about what happened in Nigeria?
- In what way does Charlie's Batman disguise translate to Little Bee’s life? To Sarah’s? (other then the fact that he is her son)
- What other motifs can be found in the novel?

Surrey, United Kingdom. Nixie Magazine Office, London, United Kingdom.
Village in Nigeria. Beach in Nigeria.
Detention Center in United Kingdom.
Assumed to be present day.

Style of Writing/Narration
- When the narration was switched from Sarah to Little Bee, was it at all confusing?

"' First time I hear white man say my business not his business. You got our gold. You got our oil. What is wrong with our girls?'" (112)

"When the killer turned away, I dropped to my knees. I looked straight at Little Bee. She saw what the killer did not see. She saw the white woman put her own left hand down on the hard sand, and she saw her pick up the machete, and she saw her chop off her middle finger with one simple chop, like a girl topping a carrot, neatly, on a quiet Surrey Saturday, between gymkhana and lunch" (115).

"Me, I was a woman under white fluorescent strip lights, in an underground room in an immigration detention center forty miles east of London. There were no seasons there. It was cold, cold, cold, and I did not have anyone to smile at. Those cold years are frozen inside me. The African girl they locked up in the immigration detention center, poor child, she never really escaped. In my soul she is still locked up in there, forever, under the fluorescent lights, curled up on the green linoleum floor with her knees tucked up under her chin. And this woman they released from the immigration detention center, this creature that I am, she is a new breed of human. There is nothing natural about me. I was born-no, I was reborn- in captivity" (7-8).

"In my dream I watched that tire swinging back and fro, back and fro, in that village we did not yet know was built on an oil field and would soon be fought over by men in a crazy hurry to drill down into the oil. This is the trouble with all happiness- all of it is built on top of something that men want" (78).

"In our village our only Bible had all of its pages missing after the forty-sixth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, so that the end of our religion, as far as any of us knew, was My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me? We understood that this was the end of the story" (182).

Outside Resources

Compare and Contrast
external image little-bee-by-chris-cleave.jpg
- Out of all of the book covers above, which one do you think best represents the novel the best? Why?