Summary and book reviews of The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees

by Laline Paull

The Bees
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2014, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2015, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucy Rock

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Book Summary

The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive's survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all - daring to challenge the Queen's fertility - enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society - and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window.

Chapter Two

The priestess walked swiftly through the pale corridors of the Arrivals Hall. Flora followed closely, her brain recording all the sounds and scents as different kin broke free of their emergence chambers. Many more dark sanitation workers moved along the gutters with bundles of soiled wax. Noting their sharp, distinctive odor and how other bees avoided any contact with them, Flora drew closer to Sister Sage and her fragrant wake.

The priestess paused, antennae raised. They had come to the edge of the Arrivals Hall, where the countless rows of emergence cells ended and a large hexagonal doorway led into a smaller chamber. A burst of applause from within carried out a thrilling new odor. Flora looked up at Sister Sage.

"Unfortunate timing," said the priestess. "But I must pay my respects." They went inside, where she put Flora to wait by the wall and then went to the front of a large crowd of bees. Flora watched as once again they burst out clapping, standing around ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This is an utterly unique, gripping novel whose heady mix of dystopia, naturalism and feminist concern will no doubt draw debate. Built on a daring concept, this is a sophisticatedly executed debut novel. In addition to the human traits she gives her bug protagonists, Paull vividly and accurately lays out the hierarchy of the honeybee colonies — their dangers, joys, devotion to the queen. These complex societies provide fertile ground for exploring daring themes such as religious fervour, police states, gender politics, the very real threat posed by predators (known as 'The Myriad') and perhaps, most relevant, the toxic pesticides sprayed on crops that decimate the hive's population.   (Reviewed by Lucy Rock).

Full Review Members Only (583 words).

Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review

Told with rapturously attentive imagination...Few novels create such a singular reading experience.

Huffington Post

Fascinating… engrossing… Paull’s clear fascination with her source material brings humanity and warmth to a depiction of the remarkable social world of bees, which is no small achievement.

Publishers Weekly

Dystopia meets the Discovery Channel in this audacious debut novel...while Flora 717 may not be the next Katniss Everdeen, she symbolizes the power that knowledge has to engender change, even in nature.

Library Journal

Starred Review. A powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society.

Author Blurb Madeline Miller, bestselling author of The Song of Achilles
The Bees is an extraordinary feat of imagination, conjuring the life of a beehive in gripping, passionate and brilliant detail. With every page I turned, I found myself drawn deeper into Flora's plight and her immersive, mesmerizing world.

Author Blurb Emma Donoghue, The New York Times bestselling author of Room
The Bees is one wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull's heart pounding novel wrenches us into a new world.

Author Blurb Tracy Chevalier, New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring
This is a rich, strange book...convincing in its portrayal of the mind-set of a bee and a hive. I finished it feeling I knew...how bees think and live. This is what sets us humans apart - our imagination can...create a complete, believable world so different from our own.

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Beyond the Book

The Queen Bee

The structure of a honeybee hive is both fascinating and highly complex — a pod of thousands of female worker bees, a few hundred male drones in the summer and, at the epicentre, the queen.

As a former queen begins to fail (i.e. ceases to lay eggs due to age or illness), workers will make special, larger queen cells in which nurse bees raise queen larvae, feeding them a special substance called royal jelly. Although ordinary honey bees are fed this very early in their development, queens eat only royal jelly throughout their lives. The nutrient-rich substance allows her to grow to one-and-half times the size of an ordinary bee with a fully developed reproductive system, capable of laying up to two thousand eggs per day.

The Queen Bee Once...

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