In 2013, the age of Instant Messaging, texting, face-iThingy, etc…, how many of us really know or speak to our neighbours anymore? Would you notice if two teenage girls were living with abusive and irresponsible parents? Would you notice if those parents were to disappear? Well, luckily for you, Lisa O’Donnell explores this conundrum in her debut novel, The Death of Bees. Set in present day Glasgow, O’Donnell presents the reader with Nelly and Marnie – two teenage girls growing up in some of the worse conditions imaginable. Their situation gets exponentially more precarious when their parents die, and they are suddenly left to fend for themselves. Don’t worry, I didn’t just give away a spoiler – you know this happens right from the get go. Marnie and Nelly’s quest for survival from both death, and the social services is the main focus of the story and along the way, we meet a host of interesting characters that intersect with Marnie and Nelly.
O’Donnell’s narrative is split between 3 people, and each one provides a different view point of events. At first it was a little jarring to read through the eyes of Nelly, as she has a very particular way of speaking. However, you soon get used to it and it really provides character. The amount of time spent on each narrative is perfect; you never once feel like you’ve been spending too long reading as one character. The language used by the characters is not pretty – but then life isn’t always pretty – it is honest, sparse, and real.
If you’re looking for your next unique read, I would highly recommend this one. It runs the gauntlet of emotions (it will even make you feel physically sick at one point!) and does not let up, but at the same time, it isn’t depressing for the sake of being depressing. There is light amongst these characters and it shines just as often as it is put out. It is a relatively short read, so if you can read it in one sitting, or even two, then that would be the way to do it so that you don’t lose the rhythm of the narration.
You can get this fresh, unique and honest story here – The Death of Bees: A Novel