‘Changes the way we see our world’ —SUNDAY TIMES
ACCEPT. OBEY. SERVE.
This book had been on my shelf for quite a while. Recommended by a friend and selected to be part of Waterstones Book Club I finally decided to pick it up and read it. I have to say it was bizarrely amazing.
Written from the bee’s perspective we are introduced into the life within a bee hive. The book follows the story of Flora 717, a bee born a sanitation worker, the lowest on the hierarchy. She is only fit to clean the hive and dispose the dead bodies of her fellow sister bees . Flora is too big, too dark, she’s ugly by bee standards. However, she is strong, a quick learner, curious and can speak, while others of her caste are mute. Different is not usually allowed in Flora’s world. Any bee that is different or deformed is destroyed by the fertility police (Deformity is evil. Deformity is not permitted). A Sage, a high-ranking priestess, intervenes and saves Flora from death as she sees something in her, something different. Here is where the story of The Bees begins. From then Flora is moved to another ‘sector’ of the beehive, the Nursery. Here, Flora is assigned to feed the newborns by producing Flow, royal jelly if you would like. From the Nursery, Flora moves on to become a forager, collecting pollen (food) for the hive.
Here Laline Paull gives us the wonderful scenes of the world outside the hive. We the readers can see the world through Flora and meet some interesting characters along the way; the wasps (the bees’ horrible cousins), the scheming spiders luring bees or any other insects to their beautiful woven silken webs, dirty flies who are not liked by anyone as they are seen as filthy and the lowest of the low of insects. Once Flora returns to the hives, she enters the dance hall where she explains to her fellow sisters of what she’s been up to, where she has been and what she has seen.
Flora lives to accept, obey and serve her beloved holy mother, the Queen. But, when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all…. only the Queen breeds! What happens to Flora next is an adventure you my fellow book lover will have to discover yourself.
Other than Flora and the rest of the female bees who dominate the beehive, we are introduced to the male bees who I believe add a bit of humour to the book. Preening, strutting drones who are hilarious; ”Think now of those foreign princesses waiting for us. How fatigued, how impatient for love must they be? Would you bind them in chastity a single moment longer? Or shall we fill our bellies with the strength of this hive, then free them with our swords?”. I have to say the were interesting to say the least!
The Bees is a very strange good book. At first it was a bit weird reading a book from a bee’s point of view and being introduced to her world but slowly you get used to it and become part of that family praying you don’t get on the wrong side of the Sage priestesses. Laline Paull captures the suffocating and claustrophobic feel of the hive, as well as shows us how the bees are able to communicate with each other. The words ”Accept, Obey, and Serve” are echoed throughout the novel. It’s the guiding law and religion of the beehive.
Paull’s extensive research into the bees can be seen throughout the novel and you cannot help but be fascinated by the story and become engrossed with the life of a beehive, from feeding the newborns Flow to the dance hall where Forages dance their flight for their sisters. After finishing the book I saw bees in a different light. I was sitting in the garden the other day and a bee was flying around, The Bees came instantly to mind and made me wonder whether I was looking at a forager. I definitely recommend this book to anyone. It is a very good read. Enjoy!