Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

The Death of Bees (original 2013; edition 2012)

by Lisa O'Donnell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6627614,511 (3.86)44
Title:The Death of Bees
Authors:Lisa O'Donnell
Info:William Heinemann (2012), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read, Your library, ARC

Work details

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell (2013)



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 44 mentions

English (75)  German (1)  All languages (76)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
[b:Lullabies for Little Criminals|22207|Lullabies for Little Criminals|Heather O'Neill|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327893204s/22207.jpg|23263] meets [b:The Cement Garden|9957|The Cement Garden|Ian McEwan|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1166111732s/9957.jpg|1189398].
The horrible alcoholic parents of two young teenage girls die within a day of each other, one by the hand of his wife, and then the wife by her own hand out in the garden shed.
Their children have little sympathy for the deaths. Their life of neglect and abuse have toughened them, and they know that if the authorities become aware of the loss of their parents then they will be taken into 'care' by the social services, a highly undesirable result. So after being prompted by the smell and mess of progressive decomposition, they bury the dead in the garden. Under the lavender. It is a gruesomely funny scene.
The story is told in alternating voices of the two sisters and their old gay neighbour who becomes entwined in their lives. The voice of the older sister is convincing; she is teenagerly-tough and funny and still vulnerable. Other characters become interesting when they turn out differently from our preconceptions.
Despite the nature of the story, it's surprisingly light and funny. A good summer read. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Okay, I am torn. I didn't like it but I didn't hate it. I'm in this middle ground which is just 'huh'. The truth is the story is just depressing. The kind of depressing that is truly weighed down, without the underlying comfort of something beautiful or the smallest amount of hope. What I did like was the unique style of writing and the alternating viewpoints were wonderfully done and distinctly different in voice and tone. Wonderful writing. But in the end I was just left feeling bereft. I'm not warning anyone off this book, I'm merely giving my experience with it. So if it sounds like something you might like, I hope you find more in it than I did.
Also a warning to those who need it: This book is harsh in language, sexual transgress (tho not in an overly descriptive way) and most situations. ( )
  mashiaraqcs | Mar 29, 2016 |
Marnie, 15, and Nelly, 12, are sisters who have just buried their parents, Gene and Izzy, in the backyard in The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. When their father is discovered dead by their mother, who then hangs herself in the shed, the girls decide to bury them both in the backyard so Marnie and Nelly can stay together and won't be sent to foster care. Once Marnie is sixteen she can legally be on her own and take care of Nelly, guaranteeing that they will both be safe.

Even when their drug addicted, alcoholic, neglectful, and irresponsible parents were alive, the girls were often on their own, fending for themselves. What the girls weren't counting on was Lenny, their elderly gay next-door neighbor in their Glasgow, Scotland, housing estate noticing their parents had, by all appearances, abandoned them. He steps up to offer some measure of stability and support for them. He believes the girls when they tell him that their parents have left the country for an extended trip in Turkey. With Lenny, the trio form an odd family-like relationship - until their grandfather enters the picture.

Although the details of the circumstances that cause the girls to accept Lenny's companionship are gruesome, they make an endearing set of misfits. The chapters are all in Marnie, Nelly, or Lenny's voice. Marnie's chapters are hard. She's drinking, smoking, promiscuous, and seemingly headed down the same destructive path as her parents, even though she is an intelligent teen who could potentially overcome her circumstances. She's a realist, tough talking, and brutally blunt and to the point. Nelly's chapters are often short. She is a violin prodigy, who is most certainly on the autism spectrum. She often speaks in a stilted old-fashioned manner and is socially awkward. Lenny's chapters are all written as if he is talking to his longtime companion and lover who recently died. He's been labeled the neighborhood pervert, but he is longing for redemption. He wants to care for another person again and he slowly takes the girls under his wing, caring for them as best he can even while he doesn't quite understand the extent of the psychological damage that has already been done to them.

What you might not expect is the humor mixed in with the grim in this coming-of-age story that also deals with normal adolescence pressures. The characters are believable and well developed. To be honest, the beginning chapters, when the girls are burying their parents, are repulsive and gruesome. But as the book continues it is painfully clear that all of these characters are wounded in some way. By the time the girls and Lenny connect, it is slowly becoming more and more apparent just how much they all need each other. Since we get to hear each of their individual voices, I felt a connection to all three of them and wanted desperately for everything to be okay - even though they were all in an impossible situation where a good ending seemed highly unlikely.

The writing was also incredible. Even when relating the most appalling details, O'Donnell manages to insert bits of humor. The bond between sisters is palatable, even when they are feuding, we know that they will eventually reunite and forgive. I appreciated the unspoken message that we can decide what will constitute a family; even an unconventional family is still a family and can offer love, support and stability. While O'Donnell is an accomplished screenwriter, this is her debut novel - and what a glorious debut it is. Grim, yes, but also very well crafted. I'll be looking forward to another novel from Lisa O'Donnell. (The trade paperback of The Death of Bee was just released on October 22, 2013.)

Very Highly Recommended

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Thanks to Harper and Lisa O'Donnell for the free ARC!

So often these days, families are labeled as "dysfunctional" if the dad drinks or the mom has a fling with the soccer coach. "Flawed" characters might be afraid of commitment, or have slept with one too many people, or occasionally skip class to go shopping with their friends. If you're sick and tired of this false version of reality, you'll probably like this book. But if you're squeamish and/or you don't like the idea of underage sex, drug abuse, dead parents, prostitution, and homosexuality, this is probably NOT a book for you.

Let's get one thing straight. The Death of Bees is dark. It's creepy. The characters are flawed. Marnie is fifteen. She sells drugs, sleeps with a married man, and is fiercely independent. Nelly is sweet and innocent, but talks like an elderly woman, despite the fact that she's twelve. Lennie is a gentle old man who made a bad decision years ago and is still paying the price.

On the first page of the book, we learn that both the parents are dead. The girls are burying Gene, their dad, in the backyard. They're trying to hide Izzy, their mom, so nobody will find out she's dead. Marnie and Nelly are trying to keep their parents death hidden just long enough... just until Marnie turns sixteen and can become Nelly's legal guardian. Their parents were abusive and often left the girls alone for long periods of time, so the girls figure that people won't ask too many questions. Lennie takes them in, feeds them, gives them a safe place to stay, and everything is ok... until out of nowhere, their mysterious grandfather (previously unknown to the girls) shows up asking too many questions and attempting to take custody.

The Death of Bees is an engaging, well-written story about the strength of family (blood relatives and otherwise) and the resilience of these young girls in the face of everything going wrong in their lives. ( )
  Sara.Newhouse | Feb 11, 2016 |
Compares favorably to the Adrian Mole diaries although less comic-but still pretty funny--and much, much darker. ( )
  CydMelcher | Feb 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lisa O'Donnellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jacobs, StefanieÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KjellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Norwegian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Information from the Norwegian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To my children Max and Christie
First words
Izzy called me Marnie after her mother. She's dead now, actually they're both dead.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0434021474, Paperback)

Hazlehurst housing estate, Glasgow, Christmas Eve 2010. Fifteen-year-old Marnie and her little sister Nelly have just finished burying their parents in the back garden. Only Marnie and Nelly know how they got there. Lennie, the old guy next door, has taken a sudden interest in his two young neighbours and is keeping a close eye on them. He soon realises that the girls are all alone, and need his help -- or does he need theirs?

As the year ends and another begins, the sisters' friends, their neighbours, and the authorities -- not to mention the local drug dealer, who's been sniffing around for their father -- gradually start to ask questions. And as one lie leads to another, darker secrets about Marnie's family come to light, making things even more complicated.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, The Death of Bees is an enchanting and grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Trying to keep the death of their parents a secret, Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own until several residents in Glasgow's Hazelhurst housing estate suspect that something is not right.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
263 wanted4 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.86)
1 2
2 8
2.5 2
3 37
3.5 17
4 109
4.5 12
5 34

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,261,591 books! | Top bar: Always visible