Books, Art, & Visual Culture


Writing and design by Melissa Hill, graphic designer.

The Bees by Laline Paull

Accept. Obey. Serve.
— Laline Paull, "The Bees"

This is the mantra of the bees, and if it sounds a bit culty brain-washy to you, you’d be right. I hadn’t heard of The Bees at all before I picked it up, but the blurb sounded intriguing and my husband had heard someone recommend it, so…. Anyway, being a bit dopey, I didn’t realise that this book is actually about bees. I assumed the hive was just a clever device for a dystopian society, and it is — but starring real, buzzy, insect bees. I haven’t read a book where the main protagonist is a non-humanoid, let alone the entire cast, since…well, I suppose since Watership Down. I wasn’t sure how I would enjoy this; whether the character would be as engaging and relatable. My doubts were unfounded. In Flora 717, Laline Paull has created a brave, warm, strong, but humble heroine, whose self-doubt and aspirations are all too familiar. Her struggle to find her place within the inflexible society she has been born into, is something many of us can relate to, and as she moves through the hive society and interacts with other characters, we are given a fascinating glimpse into the way bees operate. Of course, on one level, this is only in a fictional sense, but it was done so well that I was compelled to do some googling about bees and it seems that Paull has researched her subject well.

In some ways, this book reminded me a bit of a bee version of Divergent, in that the main character doesn’t fit the mould of any one class in her society, instead displaying talents and traits unexpected of one born into her position.

I really enjoyed this book as it’s one of those occasions where elegant language, interesting ideas and devices, and a plot that makes you want to read on, come together in that magical way that makes you love reading in the first place.

Photo by Melissa Hill