The Death of Bees: Book summary and reviews of The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

The Death of Bees

A Novel

by Lisa O'Donnell

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2013
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Today is Christmas Eve.
Today is my birthday.
Today I am fifteen.
Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Neither of them were beloved.


Marnie and her little sister, Nelly, are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren't telling. While life in Glasgow's Maryhill housing estate isn't grand, the girls do have each other. Besides, it's only a year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

As the New Year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? Lennie takes them in—feeds them, clothes them, protects them—and something like a family forms. But soon enough, the sisters' friends, their teachers, and the authorities start asking tougher questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls' family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for one another.

Winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Says
"Although the voices and characters are well drawn, the novel sadly did not deliver. Some of the scenes read like a made for TV drama, while others had a deus ex machina quality, with characters coming out of the woodwork to save the day. The book's title is catchy but the theme linked to the title was dropped after the first few chapters and never picked up again so it felt as if it were there merely so the book could have an intriguing title." - Naomi Benaron

Others Say
"The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip....The difference between the sisters in terms of personality and maturity puts them at odds despite their shared fear of discovery. But their resilience suggests hope for their blighted lives." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. O'Donnell's finely drawn characters display the full palette of human flaws and potential. Told in the alternating voices of Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie, this beautifully written page-turner will have readers fretting about what will become of the girls." - Booklist

"Quirky characters with distinct voices enliven this sometimes grim and often funny coming-of-age story in the vein of Karen Russell's best seller Swamplandia! O'Donnell's debut is sure to be a winner." - Library Journal

"An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect....The author's experience as a screenwriter is most definitely apparent, as the reader always hears the voices and can visualize the dramatic, sometimes appallingly grim scenes. Recommended." - Kirkus Reviews

"[A] chiller told in three voices which will intrigue readers to the last pages…O'Donnell has done a masterful job of sketching her characters…The end is largely unexpected and highly dramatic, but at the same time is the perfect ending to this chilling tale…[a] brilliant book." - The Examiner

"Lisa O'Donnell, an award-winning screenwriter, grabs the reader from the get-go..." - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"The author brilliantly paints the characters' best traits through the eyes of the other characters, and their worst traits through their own voices." - RT Book Reviews

"In more ways than the first line, The Death of Bees reminds me of Donoghue's Room. Maybe it's because both authors originated from the United Kingdom. Maybe it's because both stories carry a darkness brightened only by the innocence of the main characters." - Spencer Daily Reporter

"The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down." - The Herald (Scotland)

"As the action reaches a feverish climax…dark comedy is replaced by nerve-shredding tension…the reader is thoroughly caught up in the emotional trials and tribulations of two unlikely heroines….Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy…a powerful coming-of-age tale… - The Scotsman

"This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist." - Daily Mail (UK)

"Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh's The Acid House… O'Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion." - The Guardian (UK)

"The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters' emotional lives." - Financial Times

"The most original and incredible piece of writing I've come across in years." - Helen Fitzgerald, author of Dead Lovely

"The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare." - Alison Espach, author of The Adults

The information about The Death of Bees shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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More Information

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. A native of Scotland, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles with her two children. The Death of Bees is her first novel.

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