The Bees is centred around Flora, an ordinary sanitation worker in the hive. Her role is one of little hope with her ‘kind’ looked down upon and treated as the lowest of the low. However, she is unlike other workers, going against the grain and speaking out – showing her courage and resistance to conformity, whilst the others remain mute.
The reader is taken on a thrilling journey through her eyes, understanding what it means to be in a hierarchy, the beliefs of the holy hive (including devout worshipping to the Queen Bee and priestesses) and what happens when you break away from the rules.
There is a slight ‘1984 feel to the story with the ever-present fear of torn about by the fertility police and constant reinforcement of hive values. At times you really do sympathise with Flora and as the plot thickens so does the terror and scenarios she faces. The book brings together an array of ideas and history well, for example; the dangers facing bee populations (pesticides and weather), the foragers compared to WW1 pilots and different ranks.
Hope is restored as she is allowed to forage as a reward for her brave acts. We see her develop a fiercer attitude though this comes with conflict with her heart, conscience and loyalty. The real turn comes when she breaks the most sacred law of all – challenging the Queen’s fertility, falling pregnant. As you find out, this is not the first time either. Does she survive?
There are some horrific and memorable scenes of slaughter and gender bias which inevitably leave you to contemplate the lives of these poor bees.
This is a very well-written narrative that thrusts you into an imaginative insect world that soon becomes very real. Drama, tension and conflict, this book has it all.
There is a real buzz around this book and for good reason too!