Reading: Laline Paull's The Bees

Flora took pleasure in the delicacy of her approach and studied the ways of the smallest, sweetest blooms she could find, tiny pimpernels and forget-me-nots hiding in the pockets of the fields. The energy of the sun on her body and the joy of foraging filled her soul. She flew the fields and gathered until the light began to fade and she heard the sound of her forager sisters’ wings turning for home. Then she joined them.
— Laline Paull, The Bees

I first came across Laline Paull's debut novel, The Bees, at a train station: on the lookout for a new read, the book's luminous, yellow cover instantly caught my eye. Upon reading the first few pages, I couldn't set it back down. The refreshingly different narrative drew me in and made my train ride pass in no time. I often tend to struggle finding books that grip me from the first chapter, and picking up a book on a whim is by no means how I usually go about choosing my latest read. Yet somehow this one felt right. 

The Bees is written in the bee's-eye view of worker bee, Flora 717, who is born into the lowest class of her hive society, the sanitation workers. Blessed with outstanding bravery and keen instincts, she can speak, while the rest of her caste are mute. Quickly, Flora recognises herself as different to the rest of her caste and rises through the ranks: tending to the newborns, attending on the Queen herself and soon gathering food in the outside world. But this unconventional defiance of her social standing prompts resentment. 

Based both on facts and fiction, the story has altered the way I look at bees, those tiny little creatures that are keeping plants, and therefore life on this planet, alive. In the words of Lucy Atkins, "any book that changes the way we see our world surely deserves to be a success."

Lilly Wolf