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The Death of Bees

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  9,576 ratings  ·  1,744 reviews
A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel-a coming-of-age story with the strong voice and powerful resonance of Swamplandia! and The Secret Life of Bees—in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 2nd 2013 by Harper (first published 2012)
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The Death of Bees by Lisa O'DonnellLife After Life by Kate AtkinsonThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth GilbertThe Glass Ocean by Lori BakerVampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Released in 2013
1st out of 169 books — 168 voters
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerLife After Life by Kate AtkinsonA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Man Who Watched The World End by Chris Dietzel
Interesting Books of 2013
54th out of 311 books — 887 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kat (Lost in Neverland)

I was going to give this four stars but you know what, I say fuck it. Five stars, bitches.


This book is fucked up. I am not exaggerating.
If you are squeamish when it comes to heavy swearing, drugs, gore, fifteen year olds having sex with older men, and lots of death and seemingly unaffected 12 year old girls, you shouldn't touch this book with a ten foot pole.

And honestly, there are parts of The Death of Bees that made me frown and shift uncomfortably in my chair. Especially when Marnie, who is
Will Byrnes
What on earth is happening to the bees? They say it is an ecological disaster, an environmental holocaust. Every day I wonder what the blazes can be causing this abuse of our ecosystem. Chemicals I hear, pesticides. I don’t understand it, really I don’t. Our planet faces extinction and yet nobody seems to care. Am I afraid? You bet your bottom dollar I am.
The environment in which sisters Marnie and Nelly find themselves does indeed look poisoned beyond hope. How can anything survive? This is wo
Do not read this books if:

You hate bad language and have a weak stomach.
You love long, windy and beautiful prose.
You are looking for something happy and fluff.
You can't stand cruel acts against others, especially minors.
You need confirmation that life and beautiful, or
you believe that all human are capable of love.

If you belong to one of the above groups, you possibly shouldn't read a book that begins with two girls burying their parents in the back yard, should you? I think you should stop and
Lisa O’Donnell’s The Death of Bees is a really good read for a debut novel. It is not a happy tale. It is a grim, raw, sad and thought-provoking story. It’s a really quick read, a book that you would read in a few hours because you can’t help but keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. I loved the short chapters and the way the story was told from the perspective of the three main characters. I completely enjoyed the author’s style of writing. The prose at times was razor-sharp, fo ...more
MJ Nicholls
Colin Pie here, standing in for the financial liability and tantric lovemaster MJ Nicholls. I received a postcard from him this morning. He says he tried to send me a text message but he was stuck up a hill. I also received a telegram from him this morning explaining he tried to send a postcard but he was nowhere near a post office. An email came through this afternoon explaining he would have sent an email but he wasn’t inside. And while I wrote that last sentence, he was on the phone explainin ...more
This review also appears on my blog, The Paper Sea.

I'm one all for dark stories — I'll gladly eat them up — but there is a line, even for me, and sometimes too much is too much. The Death of Bees crossed that line. Instead of character development and world-building, it felt like Lisa O'Donnell was throwing issue after issue at character after character in order to create a gritty, 'real' storyline.

Each chapter is told from one of three viewpoints — Marnie, Nellie or Lennie — and is short and sn
Feb 02, 2014 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
After I Capture the Castle, which was, darlings, frankly a complete disahster, what do I do but pick up another novel narrated mostly by a teenage girl. However, this one was a turtle of a different complexion. Indeed, it was rather wonderful.

So, here we have a novel about miserable scummy British (in this case Scottish) underclass lives which can be viewed in many British movies such as Neds, Broken, A Way of Life, Ladybird Ladybird, Nil by Mouth and so forth. I mostly enjoy this kind of movie
Aug 21, 2012 Laima rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laima by: from Karen
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

I received this book from the generous Karen who was giving away goodies from her BEA and ALA adventures. THANK YOU!! I really enjoyed it.

The title is obscure …. this novel is not about bees.

It is a story about secrets. Everyone has them. Everyone is trying to hide them. Some secrets are more difficult to cover up than others. The fact that a character is gay, sells drugs, is on a sex offender list, picks up minors for prostitution, is having an affair, abuses
Best opening paragraph ever: "Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved."

Two sisters, Nelly and Marnie, find themselves orphaned. They bury their parents in their backyard for fear of being collected by the government and put into the foster care system. Marnie is almost 16, which apparently is the legal age in Glasgow. Their interactions, and relationship is so riveting, it takes the reader into the
A copy of The Death of Bees was provided to me by Harper for review purposes.

"Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am 15. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved."

Launching right into the heart of the story, Marnie and Nelly bury their parents in the backyard after their father suffocates and their mothers hangs herself. With both parents gone the girls are left completely alone. Living in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland, Marnie makes a hasty decis
Diane S.
3.5 One of the strongest and strangest opening paragraphs of any books I have read. Dysfunctional family and the way the girls have been effected by their parents negligent care are the basis but there is so much more to this novel. The two girls, Marnie and Nelly, are sisters who try to take care of each other in the face of any and all adversity. Lonnie, the man next store tries to take care and help the girls and it is his actions that will have the greatness impact on their young lives. Aft ...more
Dark Humor

With a book such as “The Death of Bees”, a book centered on neglected, possibly abused kids, the death of their parents and the subsequent involvement of social services, there’s a danger of excessive sentimentality or sinicism. “The Death of Bees” avoids this and is genuinely comic at times. The two sisters, though eccentric—especially Nelly, the youngest, are quirky but still believable. They are surrounded by a mix of people who try to help, some almost altruistically, and those who
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is me gesticulating wildly as I try to express to you how great this book is. This also means this review is going to be kind of meaningless because I'm still gasping for words.

Let me share the first page:
Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard.

Neither of them were beloved.
Awesome, right?

That is Marnie speaking, and the story is split between her and her younger sister Nelly (who is 11ish, I think, at the start). Those fi
Lullabies for Little Criminals meets The Cement Garden.
The horrible alcoholic parents of two young teenage girls die within a day of each other, one by the hand of his wife, and then the wife by her own hand out in the garden shed.
Their children have little sympathy for the deaths. Their life of neglect and abuse have toughened them, and they know that if the authorities become aware of the loss of their parents then they will be taken into 'care' by the social services, a highly undesirable res
Oh my...what a disturbing yet triumphant story of dysfunctional yet likable and heart wrenching characters. A wonderful debut novel by Ms. O'Donnell. Nothing that I expected and nothing that I would have chosen but how unfortunate if I had passed it up.

The 3 main characters of this story, Marnie, Nelly and Lennie are such sad and lost souls, but are all searching for family and they find it with each other. They enter each others lives in the worst of circumstances yet make it work. Each of th
Make no mistake, this is a dark story. Not for the faint of heart. This book was compared to "The Secret Life of Bees" and I have to say it is a much more grimy, gritty, nasty tale of two young girls left to fend for themselves after the 'death' of their parents. The comparison is way off base, let's get that straight!!

It's been quite a while since I read a book in one sitting, but that's exactly what happened with this one and I'm not sure exactly why. After about Chapter 3-4, I thought I'm no
What a strange book! It starts off kind of weird, and I must say I was initially hesitant whether I'd like it or not. It does make a showy opening--to introduce the girls as the author did was indeed a great idea --but it's also somewhat troublesome in terms of the overall message it conveys. Two adolescents having to actually bury their dead parents in their backyard to avoid being taken in by social services--and imagining they'd actually get away with it for as long as was necessary until the ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
For those of you who don't know, I have a sizable obsession with British pop culture. When I signed up for the tour, I, admittedly, didn't know how British this book is, but when I figured that out, oh my, was I ever excited. As odd as this book is, I can compare it to a couple of things. To get The Death of Bees, combine the darker, more disturbing family elements of Shameless with the murder and hijinks of Keeping Mum. If you appreciate the sort of dark humour that Brits excel at, do not miss ...more
Mary (BookHounds)

Gifted sisters Marnie and Nelly have buried their abusive parents in the back yard after finding them both dead and with good riddance since they have paid little or no attention to them since either can remember. The brilliant Marnie acts out, using sex, alcohol and drugs to numb herself while her younger sister uses a posh accent and retreats into a world of culture as an unnaturally gifted violinist in defense of their home life. Growing up in state supported hou
I honestly don't know what to do with this book. It is morbidly weird and disturbing. The characters have so many flaws I am certain I can't find a redeeming quality and yet I find that the neediness of each of them is their endearing quality. Besides that, I simply don't know what to think.

Basic breakdown of the story is that Marnie, age 15 and Nelly, age 12 find themselves orphaned one day. Their father, whom they despised and it is strongly hinted that he liked his girls in an unnatural way,
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I am so glad I requested this from my library. This books sucked me in after the first paragraph. The two sisters full of mystery is the perfect 2 MC's. Such an awesome cover also for the book. An outstanding book indeed.
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
If you ever wondered what a dysfunctional family was, read THE DEATH OF BEES, and you will no longer be wondering.

Marnie and Nelly lived with their parents who were not married and who never paid attention to them. They were too busy being on drugs and selling drugs. The girls had to take care of themselves and were always left alone. Then one day they were truly alone...their parents went missing and never returned. The girls knew what happened to them, but they couldn't tell anyone. Their neig
Just couldn't put this book down! At times both comic and sad - a black comedy is how I would describe it. Very addictive, a real page-turner.
The book is well constructed, with each chapter narrated by the various characters - each with their own distinctive voice. The descriptive power of the author sometimes made me put the book down (I was reading during lunch time at work and ...well...if you read it you will understand! It was early on in the book!). I was satisfied with the ending too....
The setting. The language. The story. Everything.

It's about trust, vulnerability and coming of age. But only after years of neglect and murky circumstances.
I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. The description did not interest me, but a GR group was reading it, so I joined in. Although the plot is innovative, it was not the story line that impressed me. It is the story of two young teenaged sisters surviving in Glasgow public housing after the death of their incredibly neglectful junkie parents. The non-judgmental and undemanding care from their elderly, lonely gay neighbor gives them a safe place in the midst of their chaotic and brutal lives. ...more
Luanne Ollivier
Eugene Doyle. Born 19 June 1972. Died 17 December 2010, aged thirty-eight. Isabel Ann Macdonald. Born 24 May 1974. Died 18 December 2010, aged thirty-six.

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved."

The opening prologue of Lisa O'Donnell's book The Death of Bees hooked me right away. Aren't you wondering? Where can the story go after such a beginning? Well, O'Donnell takes it place I wouldn't have imagi
This book was SO effed up and I loved every page of it! When Marnie and Nelly’s parents die, they bury them in the back garden so the authorities won’t interfere and separate them. It’s told from the alternating perspective of delinquent 15 year-old Marnie, 12 year-old quirky prodigy Nelly, and their elderly gay (and classified sexual offender) neighbor Lennie. The girls struggle to keep their secret despite being better off without their negligent junkie parents. Lennie steps in to nurture them ...more
Lynn G.
A gritty, unsentimental story of desperation, self-preservation, courage and loyalty. The reader is often faced with the questions: Is history destiny? Can you dig yourself out of horrific circumstances and chart a different course for yourself? Is it worth it to try?

Over the course of a year sisters Marnie, 15, and Nelly 12, must cope with hiding the mysterious deaths of their addicted, abusive, and neglectful parents. Keeping others in the dark about their parents means that the sisters can st
For my birthday last month Todd got me a subscription to Indiespensables from Powell’s Books in Oregon. Every six weeks I will get a first edition of a new book, signed by the author, in a specially designed slipcase, with extra prizes inside! Best present ever! My first installment was going to be The Death of Bees and was shipping on January 31st. Every day, starting on February 1st, like a little kid waiting for the toy they ordered with cereal box tops, I would run home and check the mailbox ...more
"Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved."

With opening lines like these I was immediately hooked and drawn into the story of fifteen year old Marnie, her twelve year old sister Nelly and their neighbour Lennie all of whom take turns to narrate this quirky, original tale. Marnie and Nelly's parents were never really there for them anyway, they were more concerned with drugs than childcare, so their
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Lisa O’Donnell winner of The Orange Prize for New Screenwriters with her screenplay The Wedding Gift in 2000. Lisa was also nominated for the Dennis Potter New Writers Award in the same year. She moved to Los Angeles with her family in 2006, penning her first novel The Death of Bees in 2010. Published to critical acclaim by Windmill Books in 2012 The Death of Bees will be published in the US by Ha ...more
More about Lisa O'Donnell...
Closed Doors I Love You All the Same

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“He’s the type of person who loves the idea of being an outsider because he thinks by not belonging it makes him superior in some way. What he doesn’t get is that the real outsiders would do anything to be on the inside. A real outsider can’t be seen at all. They’re people who look like they belong when inside they know they don’t. They’re people who would do anything to appear normal, while harboring the secret knowledge that they’re anything but normal.” 11 likes
“We have seen death before, Marnie and I, a mountain of ice melting over time, drops of water freezing at your core reminding you every day of that which has vanished, but the despair we know today is a sadness sailing sorrow through every bone and knuckle.” 5 likes
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