This September we read The Bees by Laline Paull. The Bees is set within a bee hive and tells the story of Flora 717 a sanitation bee who rises up through the ranks. The Bees has many tropes of a classic dystopian novel: totalitarian regime, secret police, oppression and that one individual who stands out against the state.
Paull has evidently done extensive research into bees and hive workings. For many of us, bees are the lovely bumble bees that hop from one flower to the next during summer. Paull breaks that perception and reveals the inner working of hives, along with the various bees that all play an essential role. The group particularly enjoyed this aspect of the book and we feel we have all learnt something new about bees. Learning something new about wildlife or farming is a common occurrence with the books we read!
The story line was rather straight forward, set at an easy pace, but seemed to meander off course at periods. I personally felt it was rather predictable with no surprises along the way. We thought it was interesting that the bees were very much aware of the world and other species, including humans. However, we felt there were levels of confusion between the bees and their understanding of the outside world. Paull had created a folklore for their world, intersected with humans and our understanding of reality, but at times it became confused.
The protagonist Flora 717 was an interesting character, we were all amazed how she managed to survive through such hardship. Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, she is not supposed to be able to speak and is treated as a slave by the rest of the hive. Flora 717 however develops speech, free thought and has an inner will which drives her through so many disasters which would surely destroy a weaker bee.
Overall the group really enjoyed the book, finding it an easy read with many interesting points and found the bee facts fascinating. Paull managed to intermingle the complex and diverse world of bees with a dystopian story.
October’s read is Common Ground by Rob Cowen. Visit the Rural Reads plus web page for more details.