Our Mother who are in labor
Hallowed by they womb
Thy Marriage Done
Thy Queendom come
And then the life everafter
~ Prayer to The Queen Bee
Last month, my book club read a book entitled The Bees by Laline Paul. I’ve heard of The Bees given that there’s been plenty of of buzz about this book as of late (Get it? Buzz! Buzz!) but it wasn’t on my TBR list. Now one of the reasons I belong to my book club (other than getting out of the house) is that so I read books that I normally wouldn’t pick up – to make me step outside of my comfort zone. The Bees definitely did that.
What I Didn’t Expect
First off, The Bees is a fiction book – it is not a study about the life of bees, though the reader does learn plenty about the life of bees and the hive hierarchy.
The book opens with people talking about a beehive in the back yard. Then, the book completely switches gears. The rest of the story is told from the point of view of an overly large – and exceptionally talented – sanitation worker bee named Flora 717. I waited, expecting that the point of view would switch back to the humans. It did not until the final closing scene of the book. As I began reading, a realization struck me: This book is not going to be about humans. There aren’t going to be any humans in this storyline at all. It’s going to be about bees, told from the point of view of a bee.
How Interesting Is The Life of a Bee?
I will say that initially, I was skeptical. I mean, how interesting could the life a worker bee be? Buzz Buzz. You’d be surprised! And I was – surprised and pleased that instead of a boring read about bee, I found an original, rich, engrossing book – and even an enjoyable book – in The Bees.
So What’s It Really About?
The novel investigates the life of a beehive and in so doing, unravels the following themes: politics, religion, freedom, independence, fanaticism, conformity, power, environmental influences, big government, defying authority, police brutality and more. There’s even an attempted coup at the end. Sounds riveting, no? It was!
Accept, Obey, Serve
Above all else, there were three rules to live by in the hive mind: Accept, Obey, Serve and we hear this mantra repeated over and over until it becomes deeply ingrained in each bee’s psyche. This kind of made me think of a dystopian society ruled by one ruler for they often use such matras to control their followers (subjects). The Capital in the Hunger Games comes to mind.
There was also another rule, one that must never be broken under the penalty of immediate death: Only the Queen may lay. Guess which rule gets broken?
If you don’t particularly care for books that anthropomorphize critters, then this book may not be for you. However, if you enjoy dystopian books or think you might enjoy a read about the inner workings and drama of a beehive told from the point of view of a special, headstrong, independent bee, then it’s definitely worth a read. From what I know about bees, it’s obvious that the author definitely did her homework in portraying the intricacies of hive life.
I enjoyed this fascinating, well-written characterization of honey bees and am glad I read it. I found it innovative, intriguing, suspenseful, original and at times, humorous and page-turning. Who knew that a novel about the life cycle of bees could be so interesting? And who knew that I would enjoy reading such a book? I know that I’ll never look at a bee in quite the same way. I would have loved to have seen a map of the hive as an attachment to the book. I must say that now, I’m a bit intrigued.
I give it five buzzing stars out of five!
Want to find out what all the buzz is about? Check it out