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2 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

The Death of Bees

by

The Death of Bees Cover

ISBN13: 9780062209849
ISBN10: 0062209841
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

This is a book surrounded by a lot of hype, but fortunately, it is also one that lives up to it. O'Donnell tells the story of two young sisters forced to grow up long before their actual childhood ends. Though each handles it differently, their alternating toughness and determined ignorance both paint a picture of bruised innocence and the irrevocable damage wreaked by circumstance. It is also the story of Lennie, an old man forced into exile and loneliness and damaged by circumstance in his own tragic way. Together these three characters tell a story of outsiders, all looking for a place to belong.

Each voice gives a unique perspective to the story, but only together can they tell it completely. The different narrative styles will keep you hooked as each short chapter bleeds into the next. O'Donnell masterfully blends voice and personality in her debut novel to create compelling and credible characters. She gives these outsiders a voice without exploiting them. She also tells a beautiful story filled with sorrow and humor and life that you won't want to miss.
Recommended by Michelle M, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

"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 Maryhill housing estate isn't grand, the girls do have each other. Besides, it's only a 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? Lennie takes them in — feeds them, clothes them, protects them — and something like a family forms. But soon enough, the sisters' friends, their teachers, and the authorities start asking tougher 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 one another.

Review:

"When 15-year-old Marnie Doyle finds her father's body on the sofa of their seedy Glasgow home and her mother hanging in the garden shed, she and her younger sister, Nelly, decide to bury them both in the back garden, in British screenwriter O'Donnell's debut novel. Fearing that social services will put them into foster care, the girls undertake a desperate charade; they claim that Gene and Isabel are off on a trip. Notorious druggies and neglectful parents, at first their purported abandonment seems plausible. That's what Lennie, the lonely gay man next door, believes; though an indecency arrest in the neighborhood park has branded him a 'pervert,' the girls accept his invitation to come under his wing, with food, shelter, and companionship. But his kindness can't erase the damage that's already been done: Nelly, a violin prodigy who was molested by her father, has nightmares and screaming fits. Though she gets straight As in school, Marnie starts selling drugs, drinking vodka daily, and having sex with a married man. The situation grows even darker when their sinister maternal grandfather, Robert MacDonald, insists on taking them in, which Lennie doesn't like. But his battle with Gramps becomes complicated when Lennie is diagnosed with — but doesn't disclose — a fatal illness. The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip, but the author's decision to give precocious Nelly a prissy vocabulary and a stilted, poetic delivery ('A white syringe. The coarsest cotton. It's abominable') makes her a less believable character, especially as Marnie's voice is rife with expletives and vulgar slang. 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. Agent: Alex Christofi, Corville and Walsh, U.K." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down." Herald (Scotland)

Review:

"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." Scotsman

Review:

"This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist." Daily Mail(London)

Review:

"Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh's The Acid House...O'Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion." Guardian

Review:

"The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters' emotional lives." Financial Times

Review:

"The most original and incredible piece of writing I've come across in years." Helen Fitzgerald, author of Dead Lovely

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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)

About the Author

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. A native of Scotland, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles with her two children. The Death of Bees is her first novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

McGuffy Ann, March 13, 2013 (view all comments by McGuffy Ann)
This is quite a unique coming of age novel. The story tells of two sisters, Marnie and younger sister Nelly, living in a Glasgow, Scotland housing project.

Finding their selfish, irresponsible parents Izzy and Gene, dead, the girls decide to hide the fact by burying them in the backyard. Their hope is to wait for fifteen year old Marnie to turn sixteen so can legally care for Nelly. Marnie had been the responsible one in the family since she was a toddler, so it seems the natural thing for them to do.

Marnie does have issues, however. Growing up tough, neglected, and exposed to more than a rough existence, she has developed many problems of her own. While she has always been tough, she now finds herself vulnerable. Younger Nelly is dealing with autism but is actually now maturing.

Lonely neighbor Lennie finds the girls alone and decides to try to help them. Having many of his own life burdens and regrets, he believes by reaching out to help the girls that perhaps he can right some wrongs. An unusual “family” evolves.

The novel is a very interesting, fast paced novel. It is gritty and sometimes a bit difficult in its subject matter, but well written and believable. Parents can put their offspring in difficult situations, forcing them to grow up before their time. Sometimes “families” form out of pain and need. Sometimes we redeem ourselves in unexpected ways.
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AppleMama, March 1, 2013 (view all comments by AppleMama)
Hmmm... Is Nelly not Marnie's alternate personality? "Born" when Marnie was 3 years old, due to the substantial trauma this child had suffered? No one ever sees Nelly coming, and newcomers are always caught off guard when she makes appearances... I read the whole novel thinking of her in this way, and it totally makes sense.

"When Nelly's reading, nothing exists, not even me, I like not existing, even for an hour."

"Kimbo asked me if Nelly was a schizophrenic, I said she isn't, because she's not. She doesn't hear voices or anything, she's just not like other people and can't fake it, which is more than can be said about me. I've been faking it my whole life."

"I am glad the girls have one another, it's a lonely journey otherwise and so I leave them with their secrets and the things they share. It bonds them and keeps them strong. It is important to stay strong, it ties you to life and forces you to walk on..."

"He doesn't say anything for a minute, like everyone else who meets Nelly for the first time, he's stunned and silent. Absorbing, not comprehending."

"He is obviously interested in the girls, though he certainly wasn't prepared for Nelly..."

"The trip up was nice, we had a cool car and I got to drown out Nelly with my headphones, although she didn't have too much to say for herself for a change."

"I never even noticed her, but then that's how Nelly is. Quiet on her feet. Floating."

This psychological aspect made the story interesting, without it I would consider it mediocre at best.
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AthenasMuse, January 7, 2013 (view all comments by AthenasMuse)
Superfabulous book! Definitely dark comedic undertones amidst the many rich layers of this intriguing story. Complex and compelling plot, truly interesting, fascinating character interaction and satisfying ending that only leaves you wanting for more from this talented author! ★★★★★
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780062209849
Author:
O'Donnell, Lisa
Publisher:
Harper
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20130131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
5 x 5.5 x 1.09 in 22.8 oz

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Featured Titles » New Arrivals
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Coming of Age
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Debut Fiction
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

The Death of Bees Used Hardcover
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$11.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Harper - English 9780062209849 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This is a book surrounded by a lot of hype, but fortunately, it is also one that lives up to it. O'Donnell tells the story of two young sisters forced to grow up long before their actual childhood ends. Though each handles it differently, their alternating toughness and determined ignorance both paint a picture of bruised innocence and the irrevocable damage wreaked by circumstance. It is also the story of Lennie, an old man forced into exile and loneliness and damaged by circumstance in his own tragic way. Together these three characters tell a story of outsiders, all looking for a place to belong.

Each voice gives a unique perspective to the story, but only together can they tell it completely. The different narrative styles will keep you hooked as each short chapter bleeds into the next. O'Donnell masterfully blends voice and personality in her debut novel to create compelling and credible characters. She gives these outsiders a voice without exploiting them. She also tells a beautiful story filled with sorrow and humor and life that you won't want to miss.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "When 15-year-old Marnie Doyle finds her father's body on the sofa of their seedy Glasgow home and her mother hanging in the garden shed, she and her younger sister, Nelly, decide to bury them both in the back garden, in British screenwriter O'Donnell's debut novel. Fearing that social services will put them into foster care, the girls undertake a desperate charade; they claim that Gene and Isabel are off on a trip. Notorious druggies and neglectful parents, at first their purported abandonment seems plausible. That's what Lennie, the lonely gay man next door, believes; though an indecency arrest in the neighborhood park has branded him a 'pervert,' the girls accept his invitation to come under his wing, with food, shelter, and companionship. But his kindness can't erase the damage that's already been done: Nelly, a violin prodigy who was molested by her father, has nightmares and screaming fits. Though she gets straight As in school, Marnie starts selling drugs, drinking vodka daily, and having sex with a married man. The situation grows even darker when their sinister maternal grandfather, Robert MacDonald, insists on taking them in, which Lennie doesn't like. But his battle with Gramps becomes complicated when Lennie is diagnosed with — but doesn't disclose — a fatal illness. The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip, but the author's decision to give precocious Nelly a prissy vocabulary and a stilted, poetic delivery ('A white syringe. The coarsest cotton. It's abominable') makes her a less believable character, especially as Marnie's voice is rife with expletives and vulgar slang. 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. Agent: Alex Christofi, Corville and Walsh, U.K." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist."
"Review" by , "Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh's The Acid House...O'Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion."
"Review" by , "The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters' emotional lives."
"Review" by , "The most original and incredible piece of writing I've come across in years."
"Review" by , "The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
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