The Death of Bees: A Novel (Paperback)
Lisa O'Donnell's debut coming of age story did not disappoint. The opening lines suggest the dark and heart-clenching read to come.
Having just buried their parents in the backyard, 15-year-old Marnie and her little sister, Nelly, are alone in Glasgow on Christmas Eve. Marnie becomes the head of the household, as she struggles to grow up and support her little sister. As the story unfolds, the mysterious beginning is explained.
Marnie and Nelly have a hard life, and my heart went out to them throughout the book. It is sad when you think the demise of their parents was the best thing to have happened to them. I loved all the raw and riveting characters in this book, even the supporting ones.
Death of Bees isn't for the faint of heart, and it is not a young adult book. Getting to connect with these characters (and wanting to protect them from the world) is a worthwhile experience.This book is an astounding read.— Vanessa
January 2013 Indie Next List
“Beginning with two children who bury their parents in their garden, The Death of Bees had me hooked from page one. Streetwise teen Marnie and her younger, socially awkward, violin prodigy sister find their parents dead and attempt to cover up their deaths to avoid foster care, with both help and hindrance from some surprising sources. Told from the point of view of multiple characters, this lively, suspenseful, and darkly hilarious tale transfixed me from gruesome start to wonderfully satisfying finish. Brilliant, delightful, and thought provoking!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI
A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel, The Death of Bees is a coming-of-age story in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.
Marnie and Nelly, left on their own in Glasgow's Hazlehurst housing estate, attempt to avoid suspicion until Marnie can become a legal guardian for her younger sister.
Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, and told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.
About the Author
Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize. She won the Orange Prize for New Screenwriters for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. She lives in Scotland.
“In this first novel she pulls off the unusual pairing of grisly and touching.”
— New York Times
“O’Donnell walks a fine line, describing appalling events without ever allowing the novel to lose its warm heart....The Death of Bees is that rare thing: a family-values black comedy.”
— Christian Science Monitor
“Wild, witty and as funny as it is unsettling. The Death of Bees is really about the strength of sisters, the sparkle of imagination and how even the most motley of half lives can somehow coalesce into a shining whole.”
— Houston Chronicle
“O’Donnell’s finely drawn characters display the full palette of human flaws and potential. Told in the alternating voices of Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie, this beautifully written page-turner will have readers fretting about what will become of the girls.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“[A] chiller told in three voices which will intrigue readers to the last pages…O’Donnell has done a masterful job of sketching her characters…The end is largely unexpected and highly dramatic, but at the same time is the perfect ending to this chilling tale…[a] brilliant book.”
— Examiner (Northern California)
“With characters and voices the remind me of other strong debut novels (like Fates Will Find Their Way and Vaclav and Lena), this book will appeal to readers who like a strong voice, dark humor, and compelling story lines told in a literary yet accessible way.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Lisa O’Donnell, an award-winning screenwriter, grabs the reader from the get-go...”
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“The author brilliantly paints the characters’ best traits through the eyes of the other characters, and their worst traits through their own voices.”
— RT Book Reviews
“O’Donnell’s wildly original debut examines the intricacies of betrayal and loyalty within one family and their effects on two vulnerable young girls…With a gritty but redemptive take on family and the price of secrets, O’Donnell’s debut will be well-received by fans of mainstream literature and Scottish noir mysteries alike.”
— Shelf Awareness
“The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip....The difference between the sisters in terms of personality and maturity puts them at odds despite their shared fear of discovery. But their resilience suggests hope for their blighted lives.”
— Publishers Weekly (boxed review)
“In more ways than the first line, The Death of Bees reminds me of Donoghue’s Room. Maybe it’s because both authors originated from the United Kingdom. Maybe it’s because both stories carry a darkness brightened only by the innocence of the main characters.
— Spencer Daily Reporter
“The quirky characters and thrilling plotlines will leave readers anxious to find out what will become of the girls. This poignant, compelling, and hopeful tale teaches readers that a desperate situation can always be alleviated by reaching out to others.”
— The Hub
“This is a sweet, funny book filled with two sister’s unrelenting love for each other and their determination to stay together at all costs…it is a good read and if you are interested in being taken on a crazy ride, this is the book for you.”
“As a gothic novel and a psychological look at the effects of trauma, it had verve and nerve…O’Donnell knows how to keep a reader engaged, and her sympathy -- and hope -- for her characters tempers what could have been a sordid tale.”
— Columbus Dispatch
“Quirky characters with distinct voices enliven this sometimes grim and often funny coming-of-age story in the vein of Karen Russell’s best seller Swamplandia! O’Donnell’s debut is sure to be a winner.”
— Library Journal
“An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect....The author’s experience as a screenwriter is most definitely apparent, as the reader always hears the voices and can visualize the dramatic, sometimes appallingly grim scenes. Recommended.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare.”
— Alison Espach, author of The Adults
“The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down.”
— Herald (Scotland)
“As the action reaches a feverish climax…dark comedy is replaced by nerve-shredding tension…the reader is thoroughly caught up in the emotional trials and tribulations of two unlikely heroines….Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy…a powerful coming-of-age tale…”
“This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist.”
— Daily Mail (London)
“Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House… O’Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion.”
“The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters’ emotional lives.”
— Financial Times
“The most original and incredible piece of writing I’ve come across in years.”
— Helen Fitzgerald, author of Dead Lovely
“Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy . . . a powerful coming-of-age tale.”
“We loved this novel and think you will, too…The Death of Bees gives us one of the most memorable protagonists in recent fiction.”
— Ladies’ Home Journal, Book Club
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