August 30, 2010

Reading Rainbow

I’ve started a new book today. It is the 12th (?) book on the laundry list of books I’ve enjoyed (or will soon enjoy) since I arrived in Munich. (It might not be the twelfth book, actually – I’ve lost track.) It is a book that I’ve been wanting to read. And it’s received excellent reviews. I trust books with good reviews.


Excerpt from the first four paragraphs of the book, Little Bee, by Christopher Cleave:

Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit the man from the corner shop instead – but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names. 

A pound coin can go wherever it thinks it will be safest. It can cross desserts and oceans and leave the sound of gunfire and the bitter smell of burning thatch behind. When it feels warm and secure it will turn around and smile at you, the way my big sister Nkiruka use to smile at the men in our village in the short summer after she was a girl but before she was really a woman, and certainly before the evening my mother took her to a quiet place for a serious talk.

Of course a pound coin can be serious too. It can disguise itself as power, or property, and there is nothing more serious when you are a girl who has neither. You must try to catch the pound, and trap it in your pocket, so that it cannot reach a safe country unless it takes you with it. But a pound has all the tricks of a sorcerer. When pursued I have seen it shed its tail like a lizard so that you are left holding only pence. And when you finally to go seize it, the British pound can perform the greatest magic of all, and this is to transform itself into not one, but two, identical green American dollar bills. Your fingers will close on empty air, I am telling you.

How I would love to be a British pound. A pound is free to travel to safety, and we are free to watch it go. This is the human triumph. This is called globalization. A girl like me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstiles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi. Where to, sir? Western civilization, my good man, and make it snappy. (Cleave, pp. 1-2)

Have you read this book? What did you think? And if you haven’t, doesn’t that excerpt make you want to devour this book? I am going to go do that right now.


Anonymous said...

I love love love LOVED this book. I read it in two days because I couldn't put it down. After, I bought Chris Cleave's other book 'Incendiary' because his way with prose truly blew me off my feet. Both books are fantastic, but Little Bee is on my favorites list. Phenomenal. Enjoy the read!

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