Book Review: The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
June 19, 2012 13 Comments
I must be one of Windmill Books most loyal followers on Twitter. I love their books (they are the UK publishers of The Submission, Good to a Fault, and Every Last One, to name a few), and I always enter when they have a competition. And so I won this book, The Death of Bees. I didn’t know much about it, but I loved the cover – and that usually tells me a lot about whether I’ll love the book. Indeed, I did!
The Death of Bees: What it is about
This book is about Marnie (15) and her sister Nelly (12). They find their parents dead in the house and decide to bury them in the back garden so the girls don’t have to go into care. Quite soon it becomes clear that the girls never had much of a home life so nobody around them is surprised that their parents are absent. They befriend the neighbor, Lenny, an old “pervert” that their mother never wanted them to talk to. But at Lenny’s they get what they’ve missed for so long: a nice home, good food and a family atmosphere.
Several other men (and very few women) play a role in this book. There’s the drugs dealer Vlado, who used to be a teacher in his own country, the ice cream (and drugs) seller Mike, who has an affair with Marnie, and a surprise arrival, who may or may not be exactly what the girls need in their life.
Already at the beginning of the book it becomes clear that Marnie, young as she is, has had a different life from most girls her age and has done all the things most decent parents warn their daughters against. She’s very bright, though, and knows how to deal with the bad people around her.
For various reasons, Lenny, and the other people that play a positive role in Marnie and Nelly’s life, don’t report the girls to the authorities for living on their own. Still, it is obvious that the bodies will be found at some point and the girls live in fear that their carefully balanced life will be sorely disrupted again.
The Death of Bees: What I thought
Somehow, I, a responsible adult, was happy for the girls to hide the bodies and not go to the authorities. They had been in care before, and that hadn’t worked out very well at all. There was the constant worry that the bodies would be found, for instance by Lenny, who lived only next door. That gave the book a certain tension. Also the fact that the reader wasn’t sure who of the people around the sisters could be trusted, made the book never a comfortable read.
The book is a collection of thoughts (going forward in time) from Marnie, Nelly and Lenny. A bit like a diary. Because they often describe the same situation, you get to see each situation through different eyes, which can be quite funny. A lot of things, that are really quite shocking, are told in a matter-of-fact way because they are normal to Marnie, Nelly, or Lenny.
As a reader, you keep hoping things will end well with the girls, but with those bodies in the back garden, you know it can’t last.
BTW Not very suitable for people who just lost a loved one. There is some moving of bodies and body parts that may put people off. Nothing too outrageous, but still.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I got this book: from Windmill Books, in a Twitter giveaway
Number of pages: 298
First published: 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
Extra: Since writing this review, I also read O’Donnell’s next book, Closed Doors.