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Publisher's Summary

The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will lead to the unthinkable....

Laline Paull's chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, The Bees is the story of a heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.

©2014 Laline Paull (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Critic Reviews

The Bees is an extraordinary feat of imagination, conjuring the life of a beehive in gripping, passionate and brilliant detail. With every page I turned, I found myself drawn deeper into Flora's plight and her immersive, mesmerizing world.” (Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles)
The Bees” is one wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull's heart pounding novel wrenches us into a new world.” (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)
“This is a rich, strange book, utterly convincing in its portrayal of the mind-set of a bee and a hive. I finished it feeling I knew exactly how bees think and live. This is what sets us humans apart from other animals, that our imagination can allow us to create a complete, believable world so different from our own.” (Tracy Chevalier)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

amazing and accurate account of the honey bee!

An excellent read that's detail has been carefully researched to pull together a story of love, honey, and bees. I think beekeepers will adore this and it's been written so well that non beekeepers will understand and enjoy the journey too! You could not have picked a better suited narrator.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Not what I expected

I have wanted to read this book since I first heard about it. Now I've listened to it, I'm not sure what I originally expected, only that this wasn't it. The story of bee sanitation worker, Flora 717, reminded me of a fanatical religious cult run by bullies.

I found the narration grating at times, particularly when the narrator voiced the myriad of particularly unpleasant creatures that Flora encountered. I wonder whether the book would sound different if I had read it myself, if I would have enjoyed it more.

That said, it was engaging enough for me to listen to the whole 10 hours. At about the 6 hour mark it was touch and go, but I persevered to the end and am glad I did. I think this book suffered under the weight of my expectation more than anything else. Well, that, and I'm pretty sure (well, I hope) spiders don't sound like that.

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Wonderful

I loved the whole concept of this story, gave me a wonderful child like enjoyment. Very surprised I enjoyed it so much and highly recommended

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Emily
  • Mount Macedon, Australia
  • 08-31-14

The Bees - a buzzing debut novel

Many critics will describe this book as the bee version of the classic animal novel Watership Down. It's a great compliment. Watership Down is a detailed and fascinating exploration of the life of a warren of rabbits, and The Bees is a similarly detailed and fascinating exploration of the life of a hive of bees. The story is told from the individual perspective of a single bee, Flora 717, as she lives and works in the hive for the wellbeing of the hive and its queen, who is adored with religious fervour and whose love sustains the hive.

Laline Paull's novel is engrossing and interesting, and Orlagh Cassidy's narration suits it well and carries the drama of the story with style and subtlety. She has the richness of voice needed for the queen, the wheedling tones necessary for the dangerous enemies of the colony, and a brave and bold voice for Flora 717 herself, on whom the whole story rests.

This book will have you buzzing with excitement - buy it now!

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  • bookylady
  • 07-04-15

A great read, deserving of prizes.

Any additional comments?

I chose this book because I have always been fascinated by Bees since studying social insect colonies at University. So it was a great surprise and delight to find that an author had set a story in a beehive. The idea was a clever one and the author managed to weave a complicated, attention-grabbing, well-plotted dark tale with great skill and attention to details of the science/biology involved in bee colonies. But the story never read as a science-fiction tale. It was much more subtle than that. Once I started I couldn't put it down.

It reminded me very much of George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' in that it described a society of animals with political/social overtones from today's western world. The story is full of clever observations on how humans are affecting the natural world and the narrator is extremely effective.

This book would make a great read for adults and teens and could be used in schools or in families to discuss social problems and political allegory.

It really deserves wide recognition and prizes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Giftgiver
  • 07-15-15

Unusual and beguiling

What made the experience of listening to The Bees the most enjoyable?

The whole concept of the story taking place within a hive hooked me from the beginning. It was very well narrated, although I found the mispronounced (to an English ear) names of some of the flowers a little jarring.

What did you like best about this story?

Its unusual subject matter. I had an interest in bees before listening to this book, and it has increased! I can see the similarities mentioned between this and "Watership Down" and "The Handmaid's Tale", and would add "Perfume" by Patrick Susskind as another echo that I heard.

What about Orlagh Cassidy’s performance did you like?

A warm, feminine tone; ideal for the matriarchal society she was reading about.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Neither.

Any additional comments?

Whilst there were some weaker moments (it was never clear how in such a rigidly hierarchical society Flora was able to change roles so successfully), this was a wonderful work. I fear that the author may struggle to follow it up, but hope that she does.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Highlight
  • 06-13-15

FABULOUS ! A Must Read - Listen ❤️

A fabulous audiobook. I was sad when the story came to its beautiful end. An extraordinary look into the life of our wonderful Bees. The writer has a special way of captivating her readers through her intelligent use of using words and sentences, musical.

This book was an absolute pleasure made even more so by the reading. This narrator is Perfect to read this unusual piece and I will look out to listen to anything else she has read. Her voice is precise, gentle with a natural essence for creating many different character styles which enabled me to create and see each individual character which came alive for me like a film. FABULOUS !

Give this book a go, you will be heavenly surprised and pleased.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Heidi
  • 09-09-18

I could not love this book more. Magical.

Awonderful story. i was totally immersed in the woeld of the bees. i keep bees and all the factual stuff was spot on too. Beautifully read in the Audible version.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-15-18

Beautiful & Unique

I've read this book before but loved it so much I bought this audio version too. It's read really beautifully, and the characters sound so convincing. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the story again, and the performance was so immersive. Loved it!

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  • Peter Stokes
  • 06-30-18

unusual concept and delightfully thought through.

not the sort of book I would usually choose, but I found it fascinating, in part due to the depth of society created and also how well the narrator brought it to life. I will never look at bees the same!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Kimberley
  • 06-23-18

Beautifully insightfull if not a little drawn out

I loved this book, however, I did find it very easy to switch off for large parts because the story was a little samey. That being said, really nice background story and opened up a whole new perspective into the magical world of bees.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-19-18

WHO knew bees could be so interesting

This is my favourite book of the year. WHO knew bees could be so interesting. Also loved the narrators voice.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Guy
  • 04-28-18

Fascinating and gripping

This booked hooked me from the first chapter. A story set in a bee hive with rules and regulations reminiscent of those in a handmaids tale.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CM Wright
  • 04-11-18

I wish I'd written this.

Where does The Bees rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I haven't been listening to audio books that long but out of the twenty or so I have listened to this is the best one by far. I wouldn't limit it to an audio book though, it's one of the best stories I've come across in years.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Bees?

All of it; the society, the descriptions of places, how easy it was to become part of that world without questioning anything.

What does Orlagh Cassidy bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

It was a 5-star performance however without having read the book first myself I can't really say - If I'm reading a hardcopy I generally have accents or the characters voices in my head when I'm reading their dialogue. Orlagh's measured speech and diction was wonderful to listen to - she could pretty much read anything to me and I'd be content to listen.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I didn't cry but I felt very emotionally involved with the characters, especially Flora 7-17

Any additional comments?

I really loved this book, it was so interesting, engaging and gripped me from the outset. There was no excessive description or waffling, the language was effective and economic, perfectly apt for the environment and culture of the story and its characters - there was nothing I felt needed to be cut from the text (I'd love to take a red pen to some books). It emotionally engaged me, both the writing and the performance. I wish I'd had the idea for the story and written it myself. It's brilliant.

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  • audiobooker
  • 09-22-15

Bees + melodrama

The premise of this book did sound pretty weird, but I have more than a passing interest in bees so thought I'd give it a go. Was sorry that I did. It was like reading teen lit. I had no idea bees were so bloody melodramatic. It didn't engage me at all and I was hanging out for the end.

Wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful