Review: ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull

This review is for a book I absolutely love! I really don’t know how I would categorise this book! I think I would have to go for dystopian, a genre I’m not normally bothered by, but the book itself is so bizarre (in a good way) that I really couldn’t give it a category.

‘The Bees’ is about a hive, in a garden, full of bees. That’s the basic premise anyway. It follows the life of one bee, Flora 717, who is born into the lowest order of the hive- the sanitation workers, who basically just clean up after everyone else. There are several orders of bees and every order has their own job, such as helping the Queen’s eggs to be fed or foraging for pollen.

The hive is run by the Sage, who are the closest kin to the Queen Bee, the bee who acts as the God of all the other bees, and spreads her love throughout the hive in order to keep the bees calm. The Sage run the hive as a dictatorship, forcing all the bees to live by the motto: Accept. Obey. Serve.

Flora turns out to be different to a normal sanitation worker (as always happens in your typical dystopian novel!) and throughout the book she tries out many different roles, such as foraging and feeding the newly hatched babies, which are viewed in the hive as being the jobs for superior bees. Their hive has a very tight hierarchical structure and anyone breaking this or any rules are punished by the Sage.

Unlike everyone else Flora is bored staying in one role for too long and, although it is against the hive’s policy, she often moves around and tries out different skills, even though every other sanitation worker is born with only a basic skill set, without even the ability to speak.

I found the whole hive world really interesting to read about. I also liked the way Laline Paull used well-known phrases or events and gave them new names and related them to the bees and their beliefs, such as ‘The Visiting’, which turns out to be a man collecting honey from the hive, panicking and scaring all the bees, and the way they chant ‘Our Holy Mother, who art in Labour’, as the Queen’s fertility and the laying of her eggs is the most sacred part of the hive’s belief system.

In fact, as well as Accept. Obey. Serve, the bees are forced to chant, over and over ‘Only the Queen may Breed’.

Although this book is about, well, bees, it’s amazing the way Laline Paull makes you forget that and, although there are reminders, it is obvious how the hive relates to society and I loved the links Paull made with dictatorship, hierarchy and religion. Honestly, you really do forget you’re reading about a bee and begin to relate and root for Flora 717 as she goes through life and as she attempts to change the structure of the hive and help the bees get away from the Sage.

I also really loved the ending of the book, as it was, in many ways, inspirational, and I thought, after a book that managed to mix sadness and oppression with lightness and cleverness, the ending fitted really well, left the novel open but also tied up any loose ends, something I often appreciate in a book.

I would be really excited to read anything else by this author if anything comes out in the future and, although perhaps my description of the book is making you run in fear, or you’re thinking it sounds totally crazy and boring, trust me, it is so good. You’ll never look at a bee the same again 🙂

Have you read this book before? What were your initial thoughts? Do you fancy giving it a go?

Let me know any thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading x

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