Review: ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull

This review is for a book I absolutely loved! ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull is a dystopian novel, a genre I’m not usually interested in, but ‘The Bee’ sounded so fantastic that I had to give it a go.

‘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, and throughout the book she tries out many different roles, such as foraging and feeding the newly hatched babies. These roles are viewed in the hive as superior jobs for superior bees, and the hive has a very tight hierarchical structure. Anyone breaking the rules, or upsetting the hierarchy, 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 bees, it’s amazing the way Laline Paull makes you forget that. The hive really relates to modern 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 for the better.

I also really loved the ending of the book. It was inspirational, and very fitting for the tone and genre of the novel.

This book has been associated with dystopian books such as ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood, and I love this article highlighting some similarities between this book and others in the dystopian genre.

Have you read ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull? What were your initial thoughts of this unusual book? Did you enjoy my review?

Let me know any thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading x

Picture credits here

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