“Told with rapturously attentive imagination...Few novels create such a singular reading experience.” (--The New York Times Book Review)
“Riveting… evocative and beautiful.” (--NPR)
“Richly imagined” (--Los Angeles Times)
This is once again a time when I will disagree with reading professionals.
Laline Paull tells us the story of Fiona 717, a bee who was born a sanitation worker, the lowest rank in the hive. But Fiona 717 is extraordinary. She is able to communicate with the bees and other species, a fate ordinarily reserved to bees of higher status. She is courageous, the first one in the battle against the treacherous wasps, the sworn enemy of the bees; the first one also to go out and forage to find nectar and pollen for her starving sisters. She is curious which will bring her trouble in a very rigid hierarchical society whose motto is Accept, Obey and Serve. In her adventure she will meet the Queen, mother of the hive; she will learn about past secrets; she will experiment love and will break the most important rule: Only the Queen can breed.
Of course the hive is just a way for Laline Paull to ask questions about individual freedom and choice in a totalitarian regime, all packaged in a Cinderella-like story. Despite this ambitious goal, and the clever way the author chose to develop the narrative, I could never care for Fiona 717. I never immersed myself in the story, which I found ultimately to be quite predictable. Once again the Good triumphs over Evil blablabla. What also bothered me was the mix between fairy tale elements and scientific facts with no clear boundaries between the two. For example, one of the daily event described in The Bees is the prayer where the Queen's love is bestowed on all the bees to create unity within the hive. Is there a similar chemical process in reality where the queen sends some kind of pheromonal message? Or is this part totally part of the author's fantasy? I am this kind of very straightforward girl who likes to know where the truth lies, if she is misinformed in order for the plot to progress or if actually the writer did some research about bees before she began the book.
Author: Laline Paull