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The Bees by Laline Paull has been aptly referred to as a story somewhere in between The Hunger Games and Watership Down — there is cultural drama and violent competition and it is a personified interpretation of nature. Set in an orchard beehive, The Bees is a biologically accurate retelling of the goings-on and tragedy that occurs behind the walls of a hive. Although it has fantastical elements, such as talking bees and even a golden honey library, Paull highlights the entomological magic of bee life. “I made the decision to stick to the truth of the organism, wherever I could. And that led me to the best story I could write, because it was steeled with fact,” Paull said in a 2014 interview, the year The Bees was released.
Our lovable protagonist, Flora 717, is bigger, furrier, and uglier than most of her sisters and was born into the lowest class of her community — a sanitation worker deemed to clean the hive for her whole life and unable to communicate the way other bees do. Flora, however, can “talk” and so is chosen to work in the nursery caring for larvae. Eventually she works her way up the ranks, becoming a forager and leaving the hive in search of those bright beacons (flowers) and gaining experiences beyond which her sisters could ever dream. With thick, sweet writing Paull creates an insect that is one, but also many.
The Bees illustrates the cycle of a beehive throughout the seasons — from the winter cluster to the mass murder of the male drones while allowing the readers’ mind to wander, creating connections between beehive life and the human condition.
Santa Barbara Public Library’s Lisa Neubert and the Indy’s Caitlin Fitch are hosting a virtual book chat Thursday, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. Learn about the current and upcoming Indy Book Club themes and share what you’ve been reading this summer! Join the Zoom meeting at https://zoom.us/j/4956342088
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