The Death of Bees

13156039Title: The Death of Bees.

Author: Lisa O’Donnell.

Summary: Hazlehurst housing estate, Glasgow, Christmas Eve 2010. Fifteen-year-old Marnie and her little sister Nelly have just finished burying their parents in the back garden. Only Marnie and Nelly know how they got there. Lennie, the old guy next door, has taken a sudden interest in his two young neighbours and is keeping a close eye on them. He soon realises that the girls are all alone, and need his help – or does he need theirs?
As the year ends and another begins, the sisters’ friends, their neighbours, and the authorities – not to mention the local drug dealer, who’s been sniffing around for their father – gradually start to ask questions. And as one lie leads to another, darker secrets about Marnie’s family come to light, making things even more complicated.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I enjoyed this book well enough. It was an easy read. With very short chapters i suffered from a case of ‘just one more…’ and finished it quickly. But as much as i enjoyed it, it wasn’t as good as i had hoped it would be. The blurb is very well written, and makes the books sound a lot more interesting that it actually is.

Told alternately from three different characters’ points of view, the book started off well. It launched straight into the story and information dropped along the way helps the reader catch up to what’s gone and going on.

What first stuck me was the discrepancies in Marnie’s narrative. She states in the first chapter that her parents were “never there” for her and her sister, that they were “absent.” But at several points through the book she reminisces about her childhood and shares stories about the family playing dress up, about names her parents considered for the girls and about a family photo album—all remembered in a happy, meaningful way and not the action of “absent” parents. Maybe the discrepancies are the point; Marnie’s lost her parents and she’s torn about how to feel. Although her mum and dad were far from ideal carers, they was love within the family. If this was the point, it didn’t come across very well for me.

Lennie was my favourite character. He was not at all what i had imagined, and i think that helped. He was a lovely person who had had a hard life, but still smiled. He cared. He cared about others more than himself, and the only other character to come close to that was Vlado.

Marnie was realistic. As a character and as part of her character. In so many ways she’d grown up too fast, but at the same time she was still so much a child. Marnie and Lennie made this story for me; their points of view were the ones telling the story that i was interested in.

The third point of view was Nelly. Nelly i could only stand through Marnie and Lennie’s eyes. She was an unusual character, and from someone else’s point of view she’s quirky, has a distinct character and is childlike, even for her young age. From Nelly’s point of view i simply found her annoying. Her manner of speaking is completely over done. For her to use a few odd or old fashioned phrases like ‘good golly’ and ‘what the Devil’s going on?’ is one thing, but when everything she says, everything she thinks is in an exaggeratedly posh, outdated caricature of the English language, it was too far fetched for me. I tried reading it in a Scottish accent, but it just sounded even more convoluted. Team that with her penchant for cola on her cornflakes and i just found her trying too hard to be weird.

I can cope with strange characters, they don’t actually hinder my enjoyment of a book that much. What bothered me the most, though, was the feeling that this book just went on too long. The narrative style of three first person points of view and short chapters made the story move along quickly, but the story went on too long without enough actually happening. By about halfway through i was ready for the climax; i was ready to see how the story would end for these characters and i was ready to say goodbye to them. Instead a new character is introduced, who manages to eke out the book for a little longer. I hated the grandfather just as much as i was supposed to, but i was hoping for some kind of twist to his storyline, to make the extra pages worthwhile. It didn’t happen, and to me felt rather superfluous.

Overall i did enjoy the book, but i saw so much more potential in it, it was a shame. It was a nice enough way to while away a little time, but i know i won’t want to re-read it. That feeling more than anything is what disappoints me.

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About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

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