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Tell it to the Bees

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,068 ratings  ·  204 reviews
A spellbinding story of forbidden love in the 1950s, now a major movie starring Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger

A secret love which has a whole town talking ... and a small boy very worried.

Lydia Weekes is distraught at the break-up of her marriage. When her young son, Charlie, makes friends with the local doctor, Jean Markham, her life is turned upside down.

Charlie tells
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 21st 2009 by 2009 (first published 2009)
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Popular Answered Questions
Maja What charges would she face? abortion was illegal at that time, so any consequences would fall on Annie (and the doctor), not her mother.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Hollie Rosewood I agree. I know it's a movie, but some of the added drama was distracting - I'm mainly talking about the rape scene, which I felt diluted the…moreI agree. I know it's a movie, but some of the added drama was distracting - I'm mainly talking about the rape scene, which I felt diluted the situation with Jean saving Annie. That was such a crucial moment in the book for Jean's character development, choosing to help Pam, this woman she so despised, for the sake of Charlie and Lydia. The movie didn't do Jean's character arc justice. In the book, she became so much stronger, going from a character who was terribly lonely and jealous to a hero who put everything on the line for those she loved. The fact she and Lydia go their separate ways at the end of the movie seems totally inconsistent with Jean's character. Book Jean would've moved mountains to preserve this connection she never knew she needed.(less)

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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  2,068 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Jul 02, 2018 marked it as to-read
apparently there are two fiona shaws out there in the world (the author of this book and the actress known for her role in the harry potter movies) and BOTH of them are doin gay shit! we stan, we stan
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I just loved the story and the prose. Absolutely beautifully written.

The only thing that bothered me a bit was that I could not understand why Charlie's mom kissed the doctor. That bit, why she fell in love did not come out very clearly. But it is a small, small gripe compared to the rest of this wonderful book.

Also, the book reminded me of how far we as the LGBT community has come in certain countries. At one stage the two main characters discuss the fact that they cannot hold hands in public.

A housewife stuck in a crumbling marriage and an unmarried female doctor too passionate for her chosen profession. Lydia and Jean.

What could come out of their encounter?

What were the chances of love slipping quietly through that small space between floor and door that first time she invited her to tea? Love with all its shocking and bent ways, appearing in places you least expected, showing itself through people you've never thought of; love always have its ways.

Of book conversations,
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Absolutely stunning. Is it ridiculous to say I can't even write a proper review because I loved it so much and it touched me so deeply? Gorgeous writing from Fiona Shaw makes up this heart-achingly tender, passionate, and at times harrowing novel which explores the relationship (and hardships) of two women, Lydia and Jean in the 1950s who fall in love but can't name that love. It explores, self-discovery, friendship, the horror of what life as a homosexual in that era could be. The rawness of ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is such a beautiful book, heart wrenching at times but beautiful nonetheless. I bought it straight after seeing the trailer for the movie and gosh now I'm even more excited for it. I wish we got a little more interactions from the time they fell in love, especially that we spent a big part of the book (around 1/4) without them even meeting one another. But the interactions that we got are so pure and beautiful and gay it's hard not to fall in love with this story.
Lisa Rose
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Beautiful prose, characterization and characters you truly care about. I can see why its being turned into a movie and I cant wait to see it!

There are similarities with Carol/The Price of Salt obviously but there is far less angst and having the story told from three perspectives added depth and feeling.

Loved it. Quite possibly my new favorite lesbian book.
G. Benson
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was magic.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately this did not live up to my expectations. I did not enjoy the story from the point of view of the son. The first half of the book focused on the break down of the marriage, which I felt went on too long and I personally found boring.

For me there was a lack of chemistry and the first kiss just came out of the blue. For once I actually wanted more build up and romance.

It was well written but found the pacing was slow and would have preferred the point of view more from the romance.

Giuseppe D
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a good story! An improbable friendship marked by shared interests. An impossible love at the time. I found it so sad that even the nicer people would resign themselves to what society used to think at the time. I found the characters well rounded and believable and enjoyed this a lot.
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, lgbt
I loved everything about this book. It is beautifully written, I cared about the characters, and I stayed up half the night to find out how it ended.
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
i will never not be fuming that they changed the ending in the film to make this a tragedy

Rep: wlw mcs
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have found a new favourite book, wow.
Seriously, I picked this up because I saw the trailer to the movie and it gave me Carol vibes, so I thought I'd have to give it a try, I'm always down for vintage lesbian stories.
What I didn't expect though was how much this book would blow me away. It was so beautifully written I could picture everything clearly. I loved the main characters and the story unfolded slowly but still it never was boring. Also I loved how the drama wasn't too long and that
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer-fic, fiction
Theres something about books written like they belong in the 50s or 60s (whether or not its actually set there) that really doesnt suit me. I dont know how best to describe that kind of writing other than that. It usually makes it a very slow read for me and sometimes a lil boring and I tend to opt to watching the movie adaptation if there is one.

With that said, this book is basically that but I decided to push through it and once I did I couldnt put the book down. Once I got hooked, the writing
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. The plot was really well paced although all the descriptive passages at the beginning annoyed me and felt too artsy for their own good. The women also seemed suspiciously un-nervous and chill about snogging eachother in the 1950s, even in public. Then when they did there wasn't much of a deal made out of it (maybe a good thing? Not sure)
I thought it was really impressive how Fiona Shaw managed to write the book from the perspective of all the characters, even the dad at
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read for the most part. Except that a great portion of the book seemed to focus on the husband and his family. The romance was a little rushed, and also where did that first kiss come from? That was very much not in keeping with the development of the story. It felt wrong and too forward for someone who came across as quite "limp".
But it has a better ending than the film.

The film has some parts that, for me, fit better than the book, and there are parts that are way better in the
Ellie Moore
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
Read it in one sitting- meant to start it before bed and maybe read a chapter, turn in early for a 9am lecture- finished it in two and a half hours (thereabouts) utterly enraptured. What a book. It's now 3:40am and I'm still thinking about this wonderful book instead of sleeping as I should be. 100% would recommend.
Samantha Luce
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful prose highlights this historical romance of 2 women in love in the 50's. Follow the couple from first hellos to moving in together.

I also watched the movie. I enjoyed both the book and the movie for different reasons. The movie added more dramatic/thriller angles, but the story of a powerful and unexpected love remain the same.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
An unusual tale of love and loss told through three different voices: a ten year old child, his mother and their doctor, Jean Markham, set in a little British village in the fifties.

Lydia, a beautiful young woman, is abandoned by her drunken husband being forced to struggle to raise her only child, Charlie. When she is in the verge of collapse, Jean, Charlie's doctor, enters their life like a miracle. She provides Charlie with a getaway in her huge garden and she lets him tend to the bees, a
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Set in a small northern town in the nineteen fifties, Tell It To The Bees is the story of Charlie whose utterly self-absorbed father walks out on his marriage leaving his wife Lydia unable to pay her rent, despite working all the hours she can in a factory.

Through her son,Lydia becomes friends with Jean, a local doctor. When Lydia is threatened with eviction, Jean takes her in. Though neither of them have ever considered themselves to be any different from other people, they find themselves
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was very bittersweet and sad, but also strangely cathartic? I enjoyed all the character arcs, (especially Pam, Jean, and Charlie's) though I was particularly disappointed in Jim as a person. But maybe that's my own experiences coloring my perception of him. Also, Robert got what he deserved. And Annie should be protected at all costs.

The only thing I really didn't like was the fact that this made me crave seeing the movie THAT much more. Augh. Anyone with a Prime account interested in
Anne L.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Waters fan? You'll love this!

As an american hopelessly in love with the north/Yorkshire, this book was worth tracking down. Also, as a fan of solid writing and beautifully descriptive turns of phrases Shaw kept my interest to the last page. If you don't feel like reading The Fingersmith or Paying Guests for the third or fourth time give this book a shot - you won't be disappointed!
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Good story, very well written, and very cinematic. It's gonna make a great film adaptation. Anyway, Jean being straight before meeting Lydia? Sounds fake but okay. She's described as quite butch and went to medical school in the 40s, come on.


One thing I did not appreciate was having to suffer through Lydia's awful marriage and subsequent grief after her asshole husband leaves her for the WHOLE first half of the book.
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I decided to read the book after seeing the movie. As i expected, the book had more details. Especially Lydia's relationship with her husband gets more highlighted. Not my favorite book, but definitely worth the time to read.
It's very British and a gives a good view on a time that being gay wasn't something to be open about, or even speak about.
I'm not sure about the order of watching the movie and reading the book, what order would make more sense.
Read for 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge: a book by a woman in STEM. (unsure about this, but Ms. Shaw is a senior lecturer, so ya know... she rocks either way).

Can you believe, a novel that not only doesn't bury its gays, but gives them a happy ending!

Lydia lives in a small town with her husband and ten-year-old son, Charlie. Her marriage has long fallen apart, but she didn't want to admit it, not until she realises that her husband is actually visiting a woman instead of the pub as he claims.

Hussein Baher

I hate giving this a 3 stars because objectively talking I consider this to be a great book that is written beautifully and which was able to manage queer representation in a respectable manner where it's not over-dramatized, offering a happy ending(which we should see more in queer books) instead of going with the classical unnecessary angst. Say it with me, more happy queer books please. The reason behind my 3 stars is completely personal and in no way give this book justice I simply was
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Finally, a lesbian story where they actually end up together! My one complaint is that the first half of the story seemed to drag for a bitit felt like nothing was really happening until halfway through. ...more
Pinkdturtle tina
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Throughly enjoyed it. Nice to read something written about this period.
Look forward to reading more by the author.
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book, but once I did I was totally hooked. Great characters, including two of the most spiteful antagonists Ive read about for a long time. Slow moving plot that kept me interested. Very satisfactory ending. Recommended.
3,5 stars.

I'm on holiday with a terrible wifi connection, so review to come later!
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
this book was written SO WELL but at times it was so boringggggggg

but written SO WELL
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Not to be confused with Fiona Shaw, the Irish-born stage & screen actress.

Fiona was born in London in 1964. Her place of birth is now a hospital broom cupboard and her first home was on a street later obliterated beneath a superstore off the Cromwell Rd. However, she passed most of her childhood as the eldest of three girls in a lovely and spacious family home near the Thames.

Fiona studied

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“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
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“It was the most exciting sentence I've ever heard," Lydia said. Reaching out, she stroked the back of Jean's hand. "In front of your friends, to call me your love.” 5 likes
“we discovered that some great minds have the same passions, and now look where we are” 2 likes
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