Book Review: The Bees – Laline Paull

The Bees coverTitle: The Bees
Author: Laline Paull
ISBN: 9780062331151
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Ecco
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Flora 717 is born into a beehive as a sanitation worker, the lowest of the low in the rungs of bee society. But she gets noticed immediately, as much for her curiosity and abilities as large size and ugliness, and Flora begins feeding the babies in the royal nursery instead. But there is a sickness in Flora’s hive, and as it’s attacked from without and within, Flora must gather her courage in order to do what she can to save her home and her people.

Snapshot Review:

The Bees is an incredibly creative novel with a resourceful and plucky main character in Flora 717. It can move too fast at times, with seemingly random twists and turns in the story, but readers will still be able to appreciate the way Paull has brought the social dynamics of a beehive to life in this ambitious novel.

Full Review:

I knew going into The Bees that it was about life in a beehive, and I knew it would be strange. These things I was prepared for when I picked up the novel. And it is indeed strange and weird, but it’s also wondrous. Paull brings a beehive to life in a way that I never thought possible. She gives these bees emotions and feelings and draws the reader into the story. The reader comes to truly care for Flora 717, a plucky, resourceful bee with the courage and drive to save the world (or, at least, her world). Setback after setback befalls Flora, but she never loses her determination or willingness to do what she must, no matter the cost. Readers will appreciate Flora and root for her to succeed.

Readers will learn more than they ever thought possible (and possibly more than they ever wanted to know) about bees in The Bees. Paull clearly did her research about the structure and hierarchy of a hive; readers are exposed to an entirely new world that is still somehow familiar. It’s easy to see some of the social commentary that Paull is trying to make, while still weaving a fascinating story.

I did very much appreciate the creativity of The Bees and I loved Flora as a character. But I couldn’t help feeling that the story was a bit…random. Perhaps this is because bees live shorter lifespans than humans, and therefore must do all their living in a short time, but I felt constantly confused as Flora was thrown from one situation into another. It all happened so fast that readers were barely given time to adjust to the changes in Flora’s life when something entirely new and earthshaking (hiveshaking?) happened. Flora’s varied experiences do all come together in the end, as they help her with her final decisions and struggle, but they just feel very haphazard and random while reading. It can sometimes make for a confusing, frustrating read.

Now that I’ve fully read The Bees, part of me feels like I need to go back and reread it to fully appreciate the story. It’s so complex and detailed that I’m sure I missed some things on my first way through. It’s very well done, and even if I didn’t love every (frequent) twist and turn, I really can appreciate what Paull did with this story. It feels strange while reading, and it takes some effort to fully follow everything that is happening, but it’s certainly a novel that will surprise you and make you think.

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