Shoe lane library reading group met to discuss this months book: The Bees by Laline Paull.

BeesThe Shoe Lane lunchtime reading group met in November to discuss The Bees by Laline Paull. The story follows a young sanitation bee called Flora 717. Her superiors suddenly discover that she is able to create flow – a liquid to feed the royal offspring. After a short reassignment to the Nursery, Flora then becomes a forager bee. Spending her days searching and bringing back pollen for the hive. During her adventures, she discovers secrets about the hive, as well as creating some of her own. This the group felt is a gorgeous and strange  read. The author with great subtly evokes the processes of Bee life and the scent based world they inhabit and the codes and rules of the hive. Especially enjoyed was the mythology of the Bees who have their own stories to explain the world as they see it and the ages old hatred between Bees and Wasps. Paull has created a fascinating world, all described in easily readable good writing,for the majority of the reading group they felt she created a strong underlying plot that retains the reader’s interest and gives the novel a clear structure and pace. Some found it hard to put down, particularly towards the end. The ‘bee’s eye view’ of the world is always interesting, and she manages to provide plenty of variety throughout the book. This  plot is supported by a very likeable heroine in Flora (it seems odd to describe a bee as likeable, but she is!) and strong secondary characters – both individual bees, and groups of bees in general (clans, each named after a different type of plant and with a different function in society). The hive must overcome many threats – pesticide, sickness, internal rivalries, wasps, spiders, crows, bad weather, and humans visiting to take their honey. These are all compellingly described. Much appreciated was the way the author has made the bee world alien enough to be believable yet similar enough to our own world to be relate-able. Even the complex social structure centered on the Queen and the hives devotion to her is explained easily  and is made understandable to the Bee lay-person and is based on actual bee life. As one member of the group said ” If this hadn’t been a reading group book I would never have chosen it to read, but I was so glad I did This is a genuinely original book and an extraordinarily imaginative rendering of an alien world : if you like exciting, innovative, modern fiction then the group would recommend this to you. This was probably our favourite book of 2015.

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