The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down.
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 (UK)
O’Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion.
The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters’ emotional lives.
Financial Times (UK)
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.... The sisters and [neighbor] 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.
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! 'Donnell's debut is sure to be a winner with adults and young adults alike. —Nancy H. Fontaine, Norwich P.L., VT
(Starred 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.
From its first line to its last, The Death of Bees is unapologetically candid and heralds a brazen new voice in the literary world…. This is a dark and mordant novel, yet despite its fighting words, a tender heart beats deep at its center. Although undeniably bleak at times, Marnie and Nelly’s story is not devoid of hope and has much needed punches of humor throughout. The result is a riveting and rewarding read.
An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect. The story is set in Scotland, written with a distinct Scottish flavor, in very brief chapters told from the alternating points of view of the two girls and a neighbor who takes them in and ultimately covers for them when their dark secret is uncovered.... The two girls also go through the more mundane trials of female adolescence—peer pressures at school, menstruation and the confusions that accompany awakening sexuality. 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.
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