Overview (No Spoilers):
My husband’s grandfather kept bees until he was into his late 80s and about five years later we picked up the hobby when a swarm randomly made a home in one of Al’s old hives. It has been a continual learning process, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed becoming beekeepers. My personal connection with honeybees now established, it should be easy to see why Paull’s inaugural novel would catch my attention.
This unique novel is told from the perspective Flora 717, one of countless honeybees within a hive. As a beekeeper, I often observe how bees are romanticized when talking with friends and family and fully expected this rosy view to permeate throughout The Bees. In reality hives are structured places of desperate survival, with the real life facts often hard to believe. For example, worker bees live six weeks to six months depending on the time of year, drones die after mating because their penis gets ripped off, and there are very clear job distinctions for different bees within the hive. A honeybee gathers 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, which means it takes 556 bees to make one pound of honey, so make sure you saver every drop! Paull wove many of these facts, and countless more into one cohesive, gripping story that kept the reader on the edge of their seat right until the very end. The life of a honeybee is far from glamorous and to her credit Paull does not shy away from the less savory details. As a result, much of this book is difficult to read, however eloquently the story is packaged. Honestly, I don’t feel as though I can really classify The Bees as a ‘fun’ or ‘enjoyable’ experience as the emotional turmoil is extensive. That being said, I still found Paull’s tale fascinating and struggle to recall a book that I could classify as comparable.
Overall, The Bees is a truly unique, heartbreaking, and beautifully delivered story exploring the imagined inner workings and drama of a hive, with the delightful addition of having factual details used liberally throughout.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- The epilogue, despite the brevity was such an incredibly emotional scene that caused all sorts of tears. Perhaps due to Luke’s Grandpa’s connection with the bees it made that scene extra heartfelt.
- Due to Flora 717 being able to travel to various parts of the hive it allows Paull to have a conduit to view new jobs or different aspects hive life. This flexibility grants the reader access to a bee’s life from birth to death, with countless stops in between.
- The overall feel of The Bees was almost post apocalyptic with government mind control and brainwashing, alongside the threat of the ever present brutal enforcers.
- The hive was sickening from the beginning. How would Sages act in a healthy hive?
- The drones were quite tiresome. Sure, by the end they were rather amusing, but as a whole I dreaded their scenes.
- How are the spiders fortune tellers?
- I was repeatedly thrown off by Flora 717 stinging other insects and not dying. When honeybees sting humans or other animals with skin, their barbed stinger gets stuck and they die. Bees are able to sting other insects through and not have their barb become detached. See! You can learn something new every day.