The Bees

by Laline Paull

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Debut Books of the Month eBooks of the Month Family Drama Science Fiction

LoveReading View on The Bees

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015.

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2015.

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.


January 2015 Debut of the Month.

One of our Books of the Year 2014.

Sarah Broadhurst

The Bees Synopsis

Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive. 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. But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will lead to the unthinkable ...Laline Paull's chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, 'The Bees' is the story of a heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.

The Bees 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 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.

The Bees Press Reviews

'[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives'
Margaret Atwood, via Twitter

'Beautifully written and unusual ... Captivating ... A brave and original story that highlights our modern environmental crimes, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the intricacies of bee world ... Any book that changes the way we see our world surely deserves to be a success'
Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times

'Ambitious and bold ... told with such rapturously attentive imagination ... The tale zooms along with such propulsive and addictive prose ... Few novels create such a singular reading experience. The buzz you will hear surrounding this book and its astonishing author is utterly deserved'
New York Times

'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

'This unusual and cunningly imagined thriller hurtles us through the very bizarre life and adventures of Flora 717 ... Strangely thought-provoking'
Angus Clarke, The Times

'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

'It is the best novel of its kind since Watership Down . All the tension of a palace intrigue and the heart of a small, undaunted hero. An astonishing achievement'
Martin Cruz Smith

'What Laline Paull has accomplished here is multivalent: a rumination on nature; a portrait of the struggle between individual and the stifling matrix of society; and a depiction of how humanity might organize itself along different lines. I'd call it, in the end, science fiction at its best.'
Paul Di Filippo, Locus

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780007557745
Publication date: 01/01/2015
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780007557721
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780007557745
Publication date: 1st January 2015
Author: Laline Paull
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Debuts of the Month, eBook Favourites, Family Drama, Reading Groups, Science Fiction,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About 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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