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Hooked from the first lines...

Book cover image - The Death of Bees

"Eugene Doyle. Born 19 June 1972. Died 17 December 2010, aged thirty-eight. Isabel Ann Macdonald. Born 24 May 1974. Died 18 December 2010, aged thirty-six.

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."

The opening prologue of Lisa O'Donnell's  book The Death of Bees hooked me right away. Aren't you wondering? Where can the story go after such a beginning? Well, O'Donnell takes it place I wouldn't have imagined......

Marnie and her sister Nelly live on a housing estate in Glasgow. With the death of their parents Marnie is determined to keep herself and the younger Nelly together. So she lies - if anyone asks, their parents have gone to Turkey for a bit. It's not that much of a stretch - the girls have been left to fend for themselves many times as Gene and Izzy drink, smoke and party their lives away. But, Lennie, the lonely old man next door does notice. He begins to help them, feeding them and providing a clean, warm place for them to stay. But the questions start coming from all sides - teachers, friends and more. And Lennie helps the girls by lying as well. Until......

The story is told in chapters alternating through the three main characters. The same events are seen very differently in some cases. O'Donnell's characters are wonderful. Marnie is tough, resilient, brilliant but tiring of holding it all together. Nelly is wounded in many ways and seeks solace in her own world, often speaking as though she's in an old movie. Lennie too, is wounded by the world, having endured his own hardships. But the three together are able to find pockets of happiness and joy together and - dare I say it - the family that each has been yearning for. Until.....

As I crept nearer to the end of the book, I accepted my fate - I was going to be up very late that night - there was no way I could possibly put it down without knowing the outcome. O'Donnell manipulates the reader magnificently. We are given subtle insights into the girls' past with each of their narratives that only intensifies the need to know more (and the rapid turning of just one more page) Their situation is appalling, but there is that little glimmer that maybe, just maybe it will be okay. (precipitating more rapid page turning)

I absolutely adored this book.  Every year there a few books that stand out for me, ones that I immediately think of when someone says 'Can you recommend a good read? Definitely - The Death of Bees. ~~Luanne~~