The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees

Five words from the blurb: different, sisters, secret, parents, suspicious

The Death of Bees is a strange book. Strange in terms of premise, but also in my response to it – I can’t decide whether or not I liked it. The book gripped me throughout, but I found the characters, the plot, and the writing style annoying. Perhaps it is one of those books you are meant to love-to-hate? I’ll take the fact I had such a strong emotional response as a positive and try to explain the reasons for my reaction.

The Death of Bees begins with fifteen-year-old Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, burying the bodies of their parents in the garden. Rather than risk being taken into care and separated the two girls decide to cover up the death of their parents and try to continue life as normal.

Unfortunately both Marnie and Nelly were irritating characters. A stream-of-consciousness writing style is normally enough for me to abandon a book, but even though their teenage thoughts drove me nuts, the ramblings of these girls was strangely mesmerising: 

The only reason I know him at all is because he used to go to school with Lorna, but then they kicked her out and now she goes to our school, but he’s still hanging around her and so are we these days. Kimbo and Lorna are pretty tight. Both of them want to be artists and they spend hours in her studio and I don’t blame them. Lorna’s house is amazing. 

The plot was weird and unconvincing. Lots of aspects felt unrealistic and I groaned at the plot twists on numerous occasions. The next door neighbour was especially strange and I failed to understand his motivations. But, despite continual issues with the book, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what happened to these strange characters and I guess that proves the book was a good one. 

On a positive note, the inclusion of a child on the autism spectrum should be commended. I especially liked the fact this wasn’t included in the marketing and many people will be oblivious to it. *

Overall this book really annoyed me, but I can’t escape the fact that I enjoyed my mental rants at its absurdity. Recommended to book clubs who’d like an animated discussion!


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…the writing was incredible and the story line was unique and original! A Simple Taste for Reading

…the end was just too pat, too sweet, too nice, too happy, whatever you want to call it. 2013: The Year in Books

  …refreshingly different The Book Jotter


* although in an ideal world I’d like everyone to spot an autistic character/person straight away.


20 replies on “The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell”

I have read books like this where I’m not even sure what I’m going to rate it until I write down my thoughts! I don’t think you are alone in your feelings. Most of the reviews I’ve read have been equally mesmerized and irritated.

Sandy, I haven’t seen any reviews that echo mine – all the ones I’ve seen have been at one extreme or the other. I’ll have to seek out some more! It is unusual to find books that divide opinion like this, but I do admire books that evoke strong emotions.

From the other reviews I’d read it seems a strong emotional response is fitting. And that it gripped you despite your dislike of its versions of the basics of a book is pretty awesome. I had that reaction to Wuthering Heights, it’s really weird that you can dislike everything and yet still like it overall. This was on my list already, and I’m definitely keeping it now.

Charlie, I had a similar reaction to Wuthering Heights too! When I read it I hated every page, but on reflection I think it was quite an impressive book. Sounds as though you might share my reaction with this one.

I LOVED this book and I’ve been recommending it to every one (including you, I think). A pity you didn’t quite get the enjoyment out of it that I did.

I agree that the girls weren’t the most pleasing types, but they were the kind of girls that I would never like in the real world either. So it was very realistic to me. I didn’t notice the stream of consciousness or if I did, it didn’t bother me, while usually I can’t stand that kind of narrative.

So yes, I loved it. 🙂

Judith, (sorry – I was sure I’d responded to this comment before 🙁 ) Yes I think I did hear about this book from you first – thanks!

It is reassuring to know that you wouldn’t like these characters in real life 😉 Let’s hope we never have to deal with anything that happens in this book!

I really want to read this book! I did anyway, but you’ve convinced me to request a copy at my library. I think being unputdownable is one of the best things a book can be, even if that is tempered somewhat here by it being annoying at the same time!

Thank you for referring me on your blog! I enjoyed reading your comments on the book! I will be doing a giveaway for this book on my blog and facebook page in June, Lisa O’Donnell will be a featured author of the month on my pages and I will have an interview with her also!

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