Shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction 2015
Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive.
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.
Reviews of The Bees
- ‘[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives’ Margaret Atwood, via Twitter
- ‘Beautifully written and unusual … Captivating … A brave and original story that highlights our modern environmental crimes, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the intricacies of bee world … Any book that changes the way we see our world surely deserves to be a success’ Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times
- ‘Ambitious and bold … told with such rapturously attentive imagination … The tale zooms along with such propulsive and addictive prose … Few novels create such a singular reading experience. The buzz you will hear surrounding this book and its astonishing author is utterly deserved’ New York Times
- ‘One wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull’s heartpounding novel wrenches us into a new world’ Emma Donoghue
- ‘This unusual and cunningly imagined thriller hurtles us through the very bizarre life and adventures of Flora 717 … Strangely thought-provoking’ Angus Clarke, The Times
- ‘A rich, strange book, utterly convincing in its portrayal of the mindset 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
- ‘It is the best novel of its kind since “Watership Down”. All the tension of a palace intrigue and the heart of a small, undaunted hero. An astonishing achievement’ Martin Cruz Smith
- ‘What Laline Paull has accomplished here is multivalent: a rumination on nature; a portrait of the struggle between individual and the stifling matrix of society; and a depiction of how humanity might organize itself along different lines. I’d call it, in the end, science fiction at its best.’ Paul Di Filippo, Locus