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Extended Audio Sample The Bees: A Novel, by Laline Paull Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Laline Paull Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture—where only the queen may breed and any deformity means death—in which a devout young worker bee finds herself in possession of a deadly secret and becomes a hunted criminal whose decisions will mean life and death for her entire hive.

Born into the lowest class of her rigid, hierarchical society, Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, an untouchable fit only to clean and remove the bodies of the dead from her orchard hive. As part of the collective, she is taught to accept, obey, serve—work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of her beloved queen the only religion. Her society is governed by the priestess class, questions are forbidden, and all thoughts belong to the hive mind.

But Flora is not like other bees—a difference that holds profound consequences. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society—and will lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Part parable, part coming-of-age story, part pure page-turner, Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world that is simultaneously foreign and utterly familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, The Bees is the story of a strong-willed heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Bees is an extraordinary feat of imagination, conjuring the life of a beehive in gripping, passionate, and brilliant detail. With every page I turned, I found myself drawn deeper into Flora's plight and her immersive, mesmerizing world.”

    Madeline Miller, New York Times bestselling author

  • The Bees is one wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull’s heart pounding novel wrenches us into a new world.”

    Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author

  • “[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives.”

    Margaret Atwood, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Paull’s ambitious and bold first novel…is told with rapturously attentive imagination…[and] propulsive and addictive prose…Few novels create such a singular reading experience. The buzz you will hear surrounding this book and its astonishing author is utterly deserved.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Richly imagined.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Riveting… evocative and beautiful.”


  • “It quickly became clear that in its basic facts, the novel sticks closely to real-world apian biology and behavior. That is fascinating enough, but Paull deftly wields this information to create an even more elaborately layered culture of beeness…Beautiful.”

    Washington Post

  • “Fascinating…engrossing…Paull’s clear fascination with her source material brings humanity and warmth to a depiction of the remarkable social world of bees, which is no small achievement.”

    Huffington Post

  • “Brilliantly imagined…Paull’s use of human language to describe this tiny, intricate world is classic storytelling at its finest…The Bees boasts a refreshingly feminist spin on fairy tale-style plots….A wildly creative book that resonates deeply for quite a long time.”

    Austin Chronicle

  • “A marvelous work of fiction…The parallels to 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are numerous, but this story is also its own.”

    Florida Times-Union

  • “Paull’s debut presents the intricate world of the honeybee hive, where devotion and service are sacred and caste, politics, and power are as present as in any human royal court. A powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society.”

    Library Journal, (starred review)

  • “Imagine a story similar to Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale but told from the perspective of an insect. That’s exactly the premise of Paull’s debut novel…Paull’s plot brings to mind films like the 1998 hit Antz, but her deft storytelling and her nod to scientific literature allow the story to avoid the cutesy trappings that sometimes characterize novels featuring nonhuman characters. A surprisingly compelling tale.”


  • “Dystopia meets the Discovery Channel in this audacious debut novel…Like Animal Farm for the Hunger Games generation, Paull’s book features characters who are both anthropomorphized and not—insects scientifically programmed to ‘accept, obey, and serve’ but who also find themselves capable of questioning that programming…And while Flora 717 may not be the next Katniss Everdeen, she symbolizes the power that knowledge has to engender change, even in nature.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Paull deserves kudos for a daring idea.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Narrator Orlagh Cassidy’s enchanting performance enriches this debut novel…Cassidy’s vivid, engaging characterizations quickly transport listeners into the busy world of the bees…As Flora transcends her destiny, moving up through the ranks to forager, Cassidy expertly conveys the bee’s astonishment at each new discovery, curiosity about the outside world, and bravery when defending her sisters against attack. The success of this audiobook lies in Cassidy’s respectful yet lively narration, which enables listeners to connect with the story on a number of levels. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • A Library Journal Editor’s Pick for Spring 2014
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A BookPage Top Pick for May 2014
  • A Library Journal Best Book of 2014
  • An AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year for 2014
  • A BookPage Best Book of 2014
  • One of Audible’s Best Audiobooks of 2014: Editors' Pick
  • Selected for the 2015 ALA Listen List for Outstanding Audiobook Narration
  • A May 2014 LibraryReads Pick
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About the Author

Laline Paull studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles, and theater in London, where she has had two plays performed at the Royal National Theatre. She is a member of BAFTA and the Writers' Guild of America. She lives in England with her husband and children.