Monday, 19 November 2018

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees by Laline Paull
Published in the UK by Ecco in May 2014.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction 2015

Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will lead to the unthinkable . . .

Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, ‘The Bees’ is the story of a heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.

I was intrigued by the premise of The Bees by Laline Paull since I read a number of other bloggers' reviews earlier in 2015 (I read The Bees later in 2015) so I was very happy when Dave bought a copy for his Kindle. The Amazon Household setting means we get to share each other's books which is good news for me!

Paull has obviously done a lot of research into the real world life of a bee hive throughout the year and this expertise shines through. However I was much less convinced by her humanising of them. I think my main problem with this novel was the massive contradiction of Flora 717's life. On the one hand we are constantly being told that each bee is born to a certain destiny and can absolutely never change her place in hive society. Yet our heroine skips through every class and job with scarcely ever a check on her behaviour. While I accept that this device allowed us as readers to visit every stage of bee life, for me it took away from the tale's credibility. With the exception of the wonderfully cartoonish drones, there isn't much in the way of fully rounded characterisation in The Bees which made it difficult to empathise and I always felt somewhat distant from the story. I did like how much factual information I learned through reading The Bees, but as a entertaining experience this novel lacked sufficient depth to really keep my interest.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laline Paull / Contemporary fiction / Books from England


  1. Interesting premise, but I think I'd need a lot more characterization!


    1. My thoughts too. The idea is wonderful, but for me the novel fell between being entertaining and credible.

  2. Well yes this is definitely an intriguing premise, too bad it wasn't too credible! Oh I wish my hubby got good books to read like Dave!

  3. Like the others above, what an interesting premise! I may still give it a go, it is such a unique plot.

    1. If you can get past the contradictions it's an informative read that illuminates a lot about bee life