The Bees, Laline Paull

I first saw this in a bookshop in Bath a couple of months ago, and was intrigued. But I was also a bit lost, and a bit sleepy, and a bit I-should-stop-buying-books-for-a-while-I-have-so-many, so I left empty-handed and got even more lost in Bath before finding my friends (sidenote: meeting women off twitter is brilliant, I highly recommend it).

The Bees is like nothing I’ve read before, portraying the beehive as a religious society with a kind of caste system. Flora 717 is a sanitation worker – the lowliest group, not permitted to leave the hive, or even interact with other kin. Flora, however, is taken out of her kin’s usual duties and moved into another group, for reasons unknown to her, and embarks on an unusual journey through the hive, learning as she goes.

It took me a little while to get through this, because I couldn’t quite decide whether I liked it. I found it dithered a little in places, and often left me with a sense of unease (though that is to do with me, and the particular feelings it provoked in me, rather than the events in the book). I read the last third of it this afternoon, and felt that it lost momentum somewhat, as though the author had decided how it would finish, but needed some more to happen to make it work. I’m glad I finished it, because it is very clever and imaginative and strange, and because I’ve never read or even heard of a book told from the point of view of insects before. But also it made me so anxious and claustrophobic that I can’t say I enjoyed it, exactly. And I can certainly think of some people I know who would enjoy it, so I shall tell them about it!

Other categories that The Bees fits into: a book by a female author, a mystery or thriller, a book that scares you, a book based entirely on its cover

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One thought on “Book challenge #10: A book with non-human characters

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