Tuesday, April 21, 2015

audiobook review: The Bees by Laline Paull

narrated by Orlagh Cassidy

The backstory: The Bees is on the 2015 Baileys Prize short list.

The basics: The Bees is the story of Flora 717 and her hive. Flora 717 is born a lowly sanitation worker, born to clean the hive and remove the dead, but she exhibits traits beyond her social status.

My thoughts: When I heard that The Bees was actually about bees, and that they were the only characters, I didn't quite know what to think. How would Paull bring them to life? Could she make me care about a bee (I am allergic enough to bee stings to not enjoy their presence.) She did. I was utterly enchanted with Flora 717 and cared what happened to her.

The Bees works on two levels. First, the story itself is interesting. I didn't think I knew a lot about bees, but as I listened, I realized how much I do know about bees and their lives. Flora's thoughts, feelings, and journeys kept me listening. What elevates the novel, however, is how perfectly the realities of a beehive mimic the tropes of dystopian fiction. The Bees is both science fiction and realistic fiction, and I loved this duality. At one point I said to myself, "so basically, Flora 717 is divergent!"

While I thoroughly enjoyed The Bees, I really disliked its closing scene. The novel opens with humans in an orchard talking about the hive the reader soon enters. Appropriately, it ends with a similar scene outside the hive. I understand what Paull was doing--grounding this fictional tale in our reality, but it didn't resonate with me the way the bees themselves did.

The verdict: Ultimately, I loved the idea and construct of The Bees a little more than the story itself, and I wish Paull would have omitted the opening and closing scenes. It's a fascinating, thought-provoking, original debut novel, and I look forward to discussing it with others.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 10 hours 16 minutes (357 pages)
Publication date: May 6, 2014 
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Bees from Amazon (Kindle edition--only $1.99!)

Want more? Visit Laline Paull's website and follow her on Twitter

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3 comments:

  1. At first I was very excited when this one came out and then my excitement disappeared after some negativr reviews. After your review though, I am intrigued again. Too bad the opening and closing scenes didn't work.

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    1. Me too! But I'm glad the Baileys list made me read it. It was just so interesting.

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  2. It looks like you enjoyed this one a lot more than I did. I thought the bee research was impressive, but it didn't feel realistic to me. It's hard to explain, but it all felt a little forced and I never really believed the premise. I ended up abandoning it :-(

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!