The Death of Bees – Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees


Windmill Books



My Rating
5 stars

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.

With opening lines like these I was immediately hooked and drawn into the story of fifteen year old Marnie, her twelve year old sister Nelly and their neighbour Lennie all of whom take turns to narrate this quirky, original tale.   Marnie and Nelly’s parents were never really there for them anyway, they were more concerned with drugs than childcare, so their sudden deaths could be some sort of release for the girls.  However, the burden of keeping their deaths secret weighs heavily on their young shoulders and you wonder how long they can keep the truth buried…

Not for the faint-hearted this is a short, snappy narrative set in Maryhill, Glasgow in 1980.  It would be an understatement to state that Marnie and Nelly have had a tough life so far – they epitomise dysfunctionality to such an extent that suspension of disbelief is, at times, a prerequisite.  Marnie is the street-wise one, sexually active, drinking, doing drugs whilst Nelly lives in her own little world (a lot more pleasant than the real one!), playing Bach on her violin, eating cornflakes with Coke and employing a distinctly archaic turn of phrase,

Marnie has taken up with a boy. He must be a very humorous chap for she giggles and gasps at everything he has to say.  She is positively smitten with the fellow.  I have no interest in boys.  They smell of socks and  oil.  I wish they’d look to their books.

Nelly seems very much on the autistic spectrum but that’s just part of her personality and I find it hard to turn off my Aspie Radar!

With the use of three different narrators, it is easy to differentiate between the characters and hear each individual voice.  Amidst the darkness there is a dry humour which makes Marnie and Nelly all the more likeable and you are rooting for them to forge a better life for themselves hoping that the  bonds of sisterhood will overcome their diametrically opposed temperaments.  This is an unusual, earthy coming of age tale with characters which will engage and stay with you long after you  turn the final page.

An excellent debut novel, highly recommended.

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  1. I’m planning to read this next so am very pleased to see that you loved it. It is even better to discover there might be an Aspie lurking in there – I’ll keep my eyes peeled :-)

  2. I really like the sound of this one and I think this is the first review I’ve read of it, thanks Treez, on to the wishlist!

  3. Thanks for this review, I think I would really enjoy this one.

  4. Teresa says:

    Jackie, it’s probably not as deep as your usual favourites but I do hope you like it.

  5. Teresa says:

    Lindsay, I think you’ll like it!

  6. Teresa says:

    Sam, it is a good one!

  7. Marie says:

    This sounds really good but very dark! I wasn’t sure about it before but from that snippet you have posted I think I’ll really love Nelly’s voice. Will definitely keep it on the wishlist.

  8. Teresa says:

    The humour offsets the darkness perfectly, Marie. Nelly is a real card…see, I’m talking like her now!

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