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The Bees
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Previous Reads: Fiction > The Bees by Laline Paul

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message 1: by Louise, Group Founder (new) - rated it 3 stars

Louise | 680 comments Mod
Our June group read is The Bees by Laline Paull. I read this a couple of months ago and really enjoyed (though didn't quite love) it, so am looking forward to hearing other people's thoughts.

Description (from UK paperback blurb)
Accept. Obey. Serve.
Flora 171 is a survivor. Born in the lowest class of the totalitarian hive society she is prepared to sacrifice everything for the Queen, surviving internal massacres, religious purges and terrifying invasions by vicious wasps. With each act of bravery her status grows, revealing both the enemies within and the sinister secrets that rule the hive. But when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all...

Laline Paull (from inside back cover of UK paperback)
Laine Paul studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles and theatre in London, where she has had two plays performed at the National theatre. She is a member of BAFTA and the Writer's Guild of America. She lives in England.

The Bees was one of six novels shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in 2015 and Laine Paull is currently working on her second book.


Discussion prompts
(these are prompts only, please use/ignore as you wish and come up with your own focusses for discussion)

The central character and almost the entirety of the cast in the novel are bees or other insects. How that affect your ability to emphasise with and relate to the characters?

The Bees takes the well known hive mind and eusocial structure of honeybee colonies and turns it into a sinister totalitarian society. Does it make you look/think about the bee/insect/animal world (or their narrative potential) any differently?

Obviously the author put a lot of research into the science of bees for this novel, and she shows her work throughout but do you think the book works as a story for those of us who haven't studied beekeeping?

What did you think of Flora as a character? Was she special? Why?


Anita (anitafajitapitareada) | 970 comments Mod
I'm pretty excited to read this and I literally just got it sent to my kindle from the hold shelf at my library, so yay perfect timing. I'm really interested in bees and have watched a few documentaries about them. The idea of a totalitarian society fits the bees society (from a human lens) although I picture them more as socialists, lol. I look forward to reading it.


Anita (anitafajitapitareada) | 970 comments Mod
I started this yesterday and am finding it really interesting. as a study on bees, I couldn't vouch for it's authenticity. there are so many classes of bees that I wasn't even aware of (not that I'm a bee expert by any means), and I'm both amused and annoyed at the representation of the drones as boisterous male knights who are living more on hype than action (thus far). I'm about 100 pages in, so not too far to make any opinions on the book.

I'm very curious about why Flora 717 keeps changing; at this point it almost feels like the author is using her shifting structure as a pathway to exploring the different castes of bees. The book is such a mixture as to be completely unique for me. It hints at a medieval society, though obviously about bees. and I haven't even broached scent communication and hive voice!

I'm curious how everyone else is finding it?


Brooke Ezra Torf-Fulton (brookeetf) | 5 comments I will admit that I am conflicted about my thoughts on Paull's book. Her writing style is interesting, fun, and the perfect easy style that I enjoy for a summer read. Flora as a character is determined, charismatic, and gives us lots of opportunities for hopes, dreams, and aspirations. However, I just couldn't quite fall in love with the story line. (I'll go into details later as people finish.)

From start to finish I read the book in less than a week. So, clearly I liked it enough, but was still able to fall asleep at night with it in my hand. While I could relate to to the themes of love and community and found the ideas of the "hive mind" fascinating... there was still something missing.

Nonetheless, I look forward to reading Paull's next book.


Anita (anitafajitapitareada) | 970 comments Mod
Yeah, I don't know what it is about this book. I really enjoy it while I'm reading it, but it is taking me quite a while to get through it. I guess I can only say that it isn't a bad book, but it isn't quite enticing to me personally either, and I voted for this book, lol.


message 6: by Louise, Group Founder (new) - rated it 3 stars

Louise | 680 comments Mod
Yeah I think you're both articulating something I felt about this book as well. While I did really enjoy it and found it very clever in places, there was definitely some sort of emotional connection missing for me.


Tate | 2 comments I was excited to read this book and participate in the discussions, but I don't think I can finish it... I like the premise and the main character is pretty compelling. But the story seems "jumbled" to me, any time Flora is in danger something random happens to save her and it happens often enough that I no longer worry what happens to her or her aspirations.

Cool premise, great ideas, but just not as compelling as I had hoped for in terms of characters and story.


Anita (anitafajitapitareada) | 970 comments Mod
I feel you, Tate! I've "decided" not to continue this a couple times, but I always come back because I guess my personality. The thing is that I don't dislike the book. After my last comment (right at 50%), I actually switched to audiobook so I could move along with it faster and "read" it during busy hands, not brain tasks. I don't know if it is a pickup in the story or the work of the narrator, but it's much more interesting to me now, and I'm enjoying having it read to me.


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