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The Death of Bees
The Death of Bees
Author: Lisa O'Donnell
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 ...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780099558422
ISBN-10: 0099558424
Publication Date: 4/23/2013
Pages: 304
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

4 stars, based on 1 rating
Publisher: William Heinemann
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Members Wishing: 15
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Death of Bees on + 181 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
A. maz. ing. This is one of those books that I desperately want to discuss with someone in real life. I'm hoping I can get my book group to read it.

O'Donnell tells her story in three different voices, all residents of a housing project in Glasgow:
Marnie is crass, worldly, and wise beyond her 15 years.
Nelly, her 12-year-old sister, seems to be on the autism spectrum (although undiagnosed) and talks like the Queen of England.
Lennie, the girls' neighbor, is an elderly, homosexual mourning the loss of his lover.
Each voice is so distinct and so believable, that's it's very easy to navigate the frequent changes in narrator. It's also very easy to fall in love with these characters.

This novel could be YA, but only for teens whose parents aren't trying to shelter them from the darker side of the world: profanity, drug use, neglect, sex...especially between minors and adults. Because all of that is normal in Marnie's world. She's been responsible for herself and Nelly since she was five years old. She's always done what it takes to protect herself and her sister. Then her drug-addicted parents' both die, less than a year short of Marnie's 16th birthday, at which point Scottish law will apparently consider her an adult capable of caring for her younger sister. The girls know that if they don't keep their parents' deaths a secret from everyone, they'll end up the foster care system. Their secret becomes increasingly difficult to keep with drug-dealers looking for their father, and the grandfather who long ago abandoned his family looking for their mother.

The setting is grim, and yet there is love, joy and hope sprinkled through out. Their neighbor Lennie has been labeled as a sex-offender, and yet, he is the kindest, most loving person in the sisters' lives. Another supporting character with a shady past also plays a surprising role in the girls' lives, while their one living relative proves just as toxic as the parents who abandoned them repeatedly while alive, before finally abandoning them permanently. (view spoiler)

The only issue I had with the book was the pacing. The first part of the book is quite slow, setting up the characters' background, but also seeming to circle the same subject matter again and again. Then suddenly the plot picks up steam and things start happening. But the end, events are flying by at top speed and several coincidences grease the wheels a little too conveniently. (I have no idea where all those train metaphors just came from.) However, I grew to love these characters so much that I happily went along for the ride.
reviewed The Death of Bees on + 753 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

Quite an interesting book and definitely different from most of what I read, this book centers around two sisters who are burying their parents and at the young ages of 15 and 12 are trying to keep up the appearances to avoid being separated. Their inquisitive neighbor enters the picture and provides another voice to the book with his own issues that he is trying to live with.
reviewed The Death of Bees on
Helpful Score: 2
Startling, dark, disturbing...yet I was captivated through the entire book. This is not for the faint of heart, those that have problems reading about child abuse, or are offended by profanity. What it is though is a heart-wrenching coming of age story. What is normal? How do we define what we see as "normal". Our normal is what we live every day. I loved it.
reviewed The Death of Bees on + 580 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
If you are looking for a sweet coming of age book, then pass this one by. This book is dark and grim and gritty. That doesnt mean this book isnt a well written book. It just isnt for the faint of heart. Some of the subject matter is uncomfortable. Marnie is only 15 and is dealing drugs, and using drugs, and drinking, and having sex with both boys her ages and adults. Nelly seems to have a form of autism and doesnt want to grow up or face reality. Lenny was arrested for paying a male prostitute for sex in a park. Turns out that man was only a boy. So Lenny gets labeled a sex offender, which means he really should not be around the young girls.

There are so many other unlikeable characters in the story. A long lost grandpa, a few drug dealers, the boy prostitute in the park and a dog named Bobby, who keeps digging in the girls garden.

I would not pass this book by if you are looking for something rare. This is a rare book told in short chapters by Nelly, Lenny and Marnie. Very seldom do you get confused on which person is talking. They voices are distinct.
reviewed The Death of Bees on + 523 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An amazing but stark and gritty story about two young sisters after they bury their parents in the backyard. They are alone and their neighbor, an elderly gay man befriends them, takes them in and the story gets more and more complicated as the lies continue. Not for the feint of heart; drugs, alcohol, sex, incest, horrible poverty and depravity; BUT a wonderful book. Could not put it down.
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