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The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

One of our Books of the Year 2014.

May 2014 Debut of the Month.

An excellent book unlike any other. The life of bees is examined and fictionalised as never before. These bees are not anthropomorphised or overly sentimentalised into cute cartoon characters; the action and communication is kept as realistic as possible whilst still providing a novel with depth of emotion and excellent characterisation. Propelled by a set of strange coincidences and lucky accidents of time and place, the lowly worker bee, Flora, works her way through the whole hive; the nursery, the morgue, even the Queen’s chamber; and learns a few more secrets than she should. Her story is incredible, fast, gripping, delightfully easy to read and full of great ideas. This book is great for the teen market but really anyone could enjoy it and indeed should, for it is quite something.

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

If you like Laline Paull you might also like to read books by Dan Brown, Tom Harper and M. J. McGrath.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Set entirely in a beehive, the story focuses on Flora 717, an ugly and despised sanitation bee whose task is to keep the place clean. But Flora has a conscience, an iron will, and an element to her that transcends the mere instinct to serve. By perseverance she rises through the hive hierarchy and gets close to the Queen, only to arouse the enmity of guardian bees who regard their positions as sacred. This is an unusual debut novel, full of allegory, while being strong on characterisation and providing details of the everyday lives of bees – insects about which most of us know little.
~ Carl Hughes

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Sophia Ufton - 'Brilliantly gripping, unputdownable. Loved the book so much...The story will capture your heart forever. You certainly won't want to miss this book. Read it!' Read full review >
  • Carolyn Huckfield - 'The life she leads and the story of the hive over one year paints an exciting and frightening picture...I’d recommend it to anyone who likes an unusual take on the world around us.' Read full review >
  • Phyllis Avery - 'This story had pace, action and emotion and was refreshingly lacking in vampires, angels or demons.  The depth of research was impressive, allowing the story to unfold in a number of intriguing ways.' Read full review >
  • Katy Noyes - 'You've never been inside a hive before, have you? Read this unique debut and you might feel you've visited one, where bees live by the motto "accept, obey, serve". The question is - can Flora?' Read full review >
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'Having read the book, I am honestly surprised as to how absorbed I have been in a book about bees.  Laline Paull has a winner with this one methinks.' Read full review >
  • Linda Rollins - 'A clever and insightful story about a bee named Flora and her short but extremely eventful life. Flora's adventures will inspire courage and hope, and a greater respect for bees.' Read full review >
  • Jane Macleod - 'This book will enlighten anyone who reads it, a really captivating story of a society previously unknown to man.' Read full review >
  • Melanie Chadwick - 'Once you’ve read it you’ll not look at a honey bee in the same way again.  Engrossing and highly original, a brilliant idea, executed very well.'  Read full review >
  • Gill Williams - 'The Bees is an intriguing book of genuine imagination which gives us an all too believable insight into the strictly regimented world of the hive.' Read full review >
  • Charlotte Connolly - 'Overall I was really interested in the story and kept picking up the book to find out what happened to Flora but I did find it a strange book to read...' Read full review >
  • Edel Waugh - 'Bee Astonished!...I found this enlightening and inspired, I recommend to all!' Read full review >
  • Frida Spanberger - 'A truly fascinating and original read. I loved all the details about bees and how a hive works but at the same time I kept forgetting that the story wasn't about people.'  Read full review >


The Bees by Laline Paull

'The Handmaid's Tale' meets 'The Hunger Games' in this brilliantly imagined debut. Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, and her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden...Laline Paull's chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar.


'The Bees is an extraordinary feat of imagination, conjuring the life of a beehive in gripping, passionate and brilliant detail. With every page I turned, I found myself drawn deeper into Flora's plight and her immersive, mesmerizing world.' Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles

'The Bees is one wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull's heartpounding novel wrenches us into a new world.'
Emma Donoghue, author of Room

'This is a rich, strange book, utterly convincing in its portrayal of the mindset of a bee and a hive. I finished it feeling I knew exactly how bees think and live. This is what sets us humans apart from other animals, that our imagination can allow us to create a complete, believable world so different from our own.'
Tracy Chevalier

About the Author

Laline Paull

Laline Paull studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles, and theatre in London, where she has had two plays performed at the Royal National Theatre. She is a member of BAFTA and the Writers' Guild of America. She lives in England by the sea with her husband, the photographer Adrian Peacock, and their three children.

Author photo © Adrian Peacock

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Book Info

Publication date

8th May 2014


Laline Paull

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Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


352 pages


Horror - Fantasy - SF
Debuts of the Month
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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