In this information age, we are all aware of the world’s horrors. Villages razed to the ground, in the name of oil. Starving, swollen-bellied children too frail to brush away the flies that feast on them.
We’ve read these stories in newspapers, watched these images on television. Maybe even seen or experienced them firsthand. Unfortunately this deluge of poignant sights and sounds tends to have a desensitizing effect. It’s hard to think of the sea of sadness as consisting of individuals.
Chris Cleaves’ Little Bee, the follow-up to his best-selling debut Incendiary, turns up the volume of one of the voices among these masses – that of a Nigerian 16-year-old girl who seeks asylum in the UK. He pairs her with her superficially polar opposite – an upper-middle-class Englishwoman – and builds around the two women an affecting, often humorous tale that never sinks unde...