Well, this certainly got 2010 off to a ripping start for me. I saw this on lots of "best of" lists late last year, and when it showed up on the long list for the 2010 Tournament of Books, it seemed more than logical to add it to the library queue. It conveniently showed up just in time for New Year's weekend, and has become my first completed book for the National Just Read More Novels Month challenge.
But how to describe it? Clearly, given that I'm not the speediest reader, finishing the book in four days shows that I was pretty deeply engaged (a long holiday weekend also helped). But the plot itself is so spoiler-ific that I hardly know what to say. The back of the book says this:
"We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story, and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn't. And it's what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you will want to tell everyone about it. Please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how it unfolds."
Although that summary reeks of hyperbole, it is, for the most part, right. About all I can say without a spoiler is that it's about an orphaned illegal refugee in England, trying to find her way after escaping terror in Nigeria. The beach scene is rough indeed--although I've since read some reviews that have understandable criticism of that part of the book--but there are many other scenes which, while not as graphic, are equally painful.
And yet, there's also humor. Some readers apparently don't like the British people who become involuntarily entwined in Little Bee's life, but I thought they were sympathetically drawn. Let's face it--most of us have no clue what Little Bee's life would be like, and we wouldn't necessarily respond any better.
It's a little frustrating, not being able to tell more. But it's a good book. Go read it, quick, before the Tournament of Books announces its short list.