The Bees by Laline Paull
Opening sentence: “The old orchard stood besieged.”
Apart from maybe Animal Farm and The Gruffalo, I’ve not read many books that have been told from the point of view of an animal or in this case, an insect.
The Bees introduces us to Flora 717, one of the many worker bees that makes up the hive. Never destined to be anything special, her role is to make sure the needs of the Queen are met and the hive remains strong. She narrates the whole story and we learn the intricate workings of the hive from the point of view of a bee.
As a character, she develops from an identikit bee to a feisty little heroine you end up rooting for and the plot is not short on action – from the hive being attacked to Flora working her way up the hierarchy and rebelling against authority in the ultimate way. It may all sound a little dramatic or far fetched but it written in such an easy-to-read way, you can’t help but keep turning those pages.
Fascinated to see if the description of life in the hive was accurate, I turned to – who else? – David Attenborough. I don’t mean personally, sadly I don’t know him, but a quick YouTube and he confirmed that, yep, the descriptions were pretty accurate, which made the story even more enjoyable for me. I do like it when fact and fiction hold hands like that.
Although many people run terrified whenever a bee comes close, I’ve never been like that and since understanding more about how how important they are to our eco-system, I’ve had a soft spot for them and this delightful tale just makes me love them even more. This story is engrossing, unique and educational, everything a book should be.