The Bees by Laline Paull

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To bee or not to bee? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Plus how to even start to describe this book?

The Bees is account of life in a beehive told through the eyes (and nose) of lowly sanitation worker bee Flora 717. She’s an ugly, odd-one out. We follow her rise through the hive hierarchy; through the nursery, on foraging expeditions for nectar and pollen, all the way to her semi-religious encounters with the ethereal Queen.

Like I said, The Bees is a difficult book to contextualise. It is strange and bizarre. It’s disorientating as you get lost in the hive and aren’t sure where Paull is going with it. Is it an allegory for human society? A tract on environmentalism? A child’s fable? A comment on religion?

It might be all or none of these things. I don’t care ultimately- its original and imaginative. I love the sensory descriptions, especially of taste and smell; they make you feel like a bee would. Bee society is alien, but Flora faces universal struggles (not where she fights a wasp though, that fairly bee-specific).

An original and a one-off; what a bae (again, sorry!)

Read: if you’re in the mood for something different. Or if you’ve ever wondered about the secret life of bees.

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