Tuesday, October 29, 2013

BLOG TOUR: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

Title: The Death of Bees
Author: Lisa O'Donnell
Genre: Adult Fiction/Dark Humour
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: March 2012
Adquired: Print copy provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel-a coming-of-age story with the strong voice and powerful resonance of Swamplandia! and The Secret Life of Bees—in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

As the new year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? But he’s not the only one who suspects something isn’t right. Soon, the sisters’ friends, their other neighbors, the authorities, and even Gene’s nosy drug dealer begin to ask questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls’ family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.


This was NOT Young Adult fiction. I think people on Goodreads need to realize that just because a novel features young adults, that does not automatically make it YA fiction. This book contains mature content, and some very colourful language. With that rant out of the way, The Death of Bees was like nothing I've read this year. NOTHING. Told in short, multiple-perspective chapters, this novel held a proverbial pillow hovering over my face, I was THISCLOSE to suffocating under the strength of it's story.

Marnie is 15, SO close to 16. Nelly is 13, going on 64. Two sisters, one desperate attempt to recapture normalcy, and put the past behind them, or in this case...beneath them. All the while Lennie watches, a neighbour who becomes consumed with wanting to care for the two young girls, after what he assumes was pure and simple abandonment by their parents. Carrying the weight of his own baggage, Lennie becomes an adoptive grandfather of sorts, and the girls begin to depend on him for the love they never received from their own flesh and blood.

I completely sugar-coated that synopsis, because this book delved deeper, and much darker, than just those facts. In the first paragraph alone, I was completely taken aback by Marnie's intensity. The rawness of her speech-while hilarious at moments-hit me in a serious way: it concealed pain of the worst kind. Nelly was charming, and completely out-of-the-ordinary. She spoke like someone straight out of an Austen novel:

"I'd hoped he'd be nice. He's delightful. An amusing type of a fellow and a real sport. He serves crumpets with curd and plays Beethoven and Bach. He is a fine pianist and we are quite the duet."

I wore my heart on my sleeve during the entire reading of The Death of Bees (wait..I JUST realized that this title is meant to be a parody of The Life of Bees!..*sigh* so slow on the uptake I am). I have NEVER read a novel that so thoroughly beat around bushes. It was obvious that Marnie and Nelly had a disgustingly horrid childhood, but you're only given that idea in snippets of memories about their parents; small glimpses into a life that they'd rather forget. Instead, you're left reading through a narrative that's FULL of obvious cries for help: in Marnie's shocking promiscuity, and Nelly's refusal to accept her developing body. It was immense. It was humour, layered over fear, layered over heartache, layered over a vulnerability like I've never seen in characters before.

Lisa O'Donnell is a fantastic novelist. I felt like I was reading a whole new genre, a completely different form of writing-I didn't know whether to laugh, or cry, or just sit there..completely still, and take it all in. I can't wait to see where she goes from here.

Recommended for Fans of: Dark Humour, Contemporary, Mystery, Adult Fiction, Controversial Issues. Authors: Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Kurt Vonnegut, Tana French.


Lisa O’Donnell winner of The Orange Prize for New Screenwriters with her screenplay The Wedding Gift in 2000. Lisa was also nominated for the Dennis Potter New Writers Award in the same year. She moved to Los Angeles with her family in 2006, penning her first novel The Death of Bees in 2010. Published to critical acclaim by Windmill Books in 2012 The Death of Bees will be published in the US by Harper Collins January 2013. The author is very excited!!!!!!

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Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to Harper Collins for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour

1 comment:

  1. WOW! "It was humour, layered over fear, layered over heartache, layered over a vulnerability like I've never seen in characters before." Man, if I was an author and someone wrote that about my book, I'd be PUMPED. What a cool way to describe a book. It certainly makes me move it up on my own list!

    Thanks for being on the tour!


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