Oh, I wanted to love this book.
To just fall into it, to be swept away on a wave of happily-ever-after and to finally close the cover, smiling.
Instead, I was lifted into a world of small kindnesses among big injustices, of moral choices, of good and evil and moments where your existence can change forever.
The first page opens with a sense of horrors-behind-us, of a life changed for the better. It is only when you began to read Little Bee's story that you realize that the 'baddies' will never truly stop following her, if only in her dreams. And as things change from scene to slightly more tense scene, you wonder not if they will, but when things will go sour.
The author sweeps you along seamlessly from character to character, from the young Nigerian Little Bee to the girls in the detention centre to the blond-haired child Charlie/Batman using words that draw detailed mental pictures - breathtaking in their clarity - and stir up emotions ranging from humour to despair. This was a heart-breaking book, funny and hopeful by turns.
I wanted to love it, for it to be soft and fluffy and good things come to good people.
I came away instead with parts of this book seared inside my memory.
And I will never take freedom so for granted again.
Read it. And tell me what you thought.
Chris Cleave has a great question-and-answer about the book here