The author has written the story of the life of a beehive, creating characters that are bees with human characteristics. She has imagined the hive as a totalitarian society where only the Queen is allowed to breed (and any other bees who happen to lay eggs are hunted down and killed along with the eggs), where deformed bees are killed, and where some bees give orders and never do any work. The main characters is Flora 717 who is born into the the lowest class – a worker. She is a bee who bucks the system, and as a result, puts herself in danger.
This story is very cleverly written and it prompted me to research more about these fascinating creatures. Like the The Washington Post, I “found myself putting down the book every few pages to research Paull’s descriptions of bee life. (Do they really secrete beeswax from their bellies? Fan nectar into honey? Periodically murder the drones?) It quickly became clear that in its basic facts, the novel sticks closely to real-world apian biology and behavior.” The writing is rich and powerful, allowing the reader to believe that the bees have human characteristics. The Guardian notes: “Many of the extraordinary facts packed into this fantasy novel are wonderfully realised. I loved the evocation of bee flight: the foragers like WWI ace pilots, roaring off the landing stage, dodging disaster on every mission; selfless and fantastically brave.”
“… variation is not the same as deformity.”
“The bouquet of the hive was drenched in the smell of its own honey and coiling with smoke. Thousands of her sisters swirled above the hive and in the trees, choking on the dazing smoke.”
Awards: Shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015; Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction 2015