Van has finished reading…The Bees by Laline Paull

8 Mar

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up. The gold-inlayed bees on the boards under the jacket are lovely, and with a name like The Bees I knew it had to have something to do with bees, but perhaps it says more about my highfaluting tendencies that I was interested to see how said bees were going to work as metaphor or cypher in the grand scheme of a life laid bare. Turns out it’s a story about bees. As in a story told from the point of view of a bee. No, no, don’t look like that. That’s the kind of attitude that makes the reading of a book like this an obstacle. The simple fact is that it’s a fascinating, gripping, intense, wholly emotional and thoroughly wonderful book.

Okay, if you’re the sort of person who can’t give yourself up wholly to a book you may struggle with the idea of living as a bee. I can only advise you to give in to it. Laline Paull has done all the work for you – I feel like I know how a hive works, like I could do an exam on it there’s so much information in there.

The characterisation is excellent, serving not only to separate the distinct influences on Flora’s journey but also laying out the strata that form the life of the hive. Formed into kinships, the bees of each sisterhood share their common and distinct behaviour and voice, yet there’s room in there to recognise the individual too, where a threat rises or a concession is made. Each character feels as real as any person you might meet in a novel about people, each affected by the things that speak to their particular station, each behaving according to their duty, their desires and their station.

Don’t get the idea this is a data-heavy block of tedium, however. In fact it’s something of a lesson in suspense writing. Before we even know what Flora’s life is she is dragged out of her comfort zone and thrust into danger. Flora is the heroine and could easily stand for an archetype: born to a lowly station, yet with talents beyond the usual, she is destined to transcend the confines and conventions of expectation. Every single chapter is either the culmination of or the auguring in of some new peril. There is trust and deception, love and duty, power and fear. And, speaking frankly, if you don’t think twice about using pesticides in your garden after reading this there’s something wrong with you.

 

I can hand-on-heart predict that this will be one of Mrs Van’s books of the year come December. Not only because she is a secret stroker of bees but for all the reasons given above. We’re about halfway through now and she keeps asking me in a small voice whether it all works out in the end for Flora (we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we!). She also bought some extra flowers for the garden at the weekend when she heard about their pollen and nectar-producing qualities.

This book genuinely has made me look at the world differently. Okay, I like my garden and enjoy plants and flowers but I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy to see our little magnolia opening her buds up to the early foragers. It is a truly fantastic read.

 

The Bees was published by Fourth Estate on 8th May 2014 ISBN:9780007557721

You can find Laline Paull on Twitter @lalinepaull and on her website www.lalinepaull.com

 

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3 Responses to “Van has finished reading…The Bees by Laline Paull”

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' 08/03/2016 at 6:01 pm #

    I bought this as a Christmas present for a friend who keeps bees and then had a quick read and loved this book, was very surprised how gripped I was by the intricate world she had created and the life of the hive, the collective consciousness, the inevitable unfolding drama. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

    • vanisreading 08/03/2016 at 9:24 pm #

      I completely agree. It’s such an engrossing world that we never really think about – at least, not before reading this book! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of Laline’s work.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My top five reads of 2016 | vanisreading - 10/01/2017

    […] of that collection of seven or so brilliant books would creep into the top five. Laline Paull’s The Bees (which is undoubtedly Mrs Van’s favourite of the year), Shelley Harris’s Vigilante (which is […]

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