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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  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.

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

  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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