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Laline Paull

Author of The Bees

3 Works 1,882 Members 139 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Laline Paull was born in England. Her parents were first-generation Indian immigrants. She studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles, and theatre 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. show more She lives in England by the sea with her husband, the photographer Adrian Peacock, and their three children. 'The Bees' is her first novel. It received wide critical acclaim and was chosen as an Amazon Rising Star. This title also made the Baileys Women¿s Prize for Fiction 2015 shortlist. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Andrew Peacock

Works by Laline Paull

The Bees (2014) 1,710 copies
Pod (2022) 98 copies
The Ice (2017) 74 copies


Common Knowledge

20th century
Places of residence
Hastings, England, UK
Oxford University



Quite interesting
zjakkelien | 126 other reviews | Jan 2, 2024 |
I was given this book by a friend so decided to read it. Although I am a fan of bees, I had received the impression that this book was a bit odd so wouldn't have gone out of my way to read it.

The protagonist Flora 717 is from an untouchables caste called Flora, and is unusual in being able to speak. As such she is plucked by one of the Sage caste, priestesses, from her lowly role and enlisted to tend young bees in the bee nursery for a while. She can produce 'flow' which we are told early on is Royal Jelly (which I knew was fed to infant bees for a short while and if fed longer would produce Queens). However, the bee lifecycle seemed to contradict what I had read previously. As far as I am aware, all the female workers - the majority of the bees in the hive - are sterile so it wouldn't be possible for Flora 717 to produce eggs, and in any case, who is the father of her offspring, as she never mates with anyone, yet late on in the story it transipres that the father of her surviving child has distinguishing characteristics which affect colouring and size etc.

Similarly, from previous reading, bees perform the various roles within the hive, including tending the young, foraging for food, fanning the hive with their wings to regulate temperature etc at different stages of their lifecycle. Whereas in this book, they are born into these roles and Flora 717 is unusual in being able to transcend her alloted place.

It is quite interesting that the Queen is practically worshipped and that the main form of control is through pheromones. Also the portrayal of the drones is quite interesting. But there isn't much real character development despite the attempt to make a few bees such as the forager who trains Flora, and a less obnoxious drone, more prominent as characters.

The working in of human impacts on the environment - a field contaminated with some kind of spray that kills bees and other wildlife, for example - and the enmity of other creatures, such as wasps and spiders, provide external threats to the hive to bolster the internal threats to Flora who is in danger of being exterminated by the police bees if her true difference and 'deviance' in laying her own eggs is discovered. Yet even here the viewpoint is confused - when she encounters humans in what appears to be a sweet warehouse she is able to comprehend that they are driving vehicles etc when such contrivances should be beyond her comprehension.

I found that overall the book failed to convince. The bees are sometimes portrayed as the alien/different creatures they are, and sometimes are all too human. I was willing to suspend disbelief to the point of accepting talking bees, but when such bees are strutting round wearing clothing, or have produced fine carvings on their walls, it does become a bit difficult to visualise. The book is an easy, page turning read, but given the issues I had with the overall believability of the story, I would rate it as an OK 2 stars.
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kitsune_reader | 126 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
Ea, a dolphin elder, the last of the Longi, looks back on her life.

An interesting story illustrating the different social customs among different types of dolphin and just how brutal they can be, and the impact of "anthrops" on the oceans.
Robertgreaves | 4 other reviews | Oct 4, 2023 |

*Shortlisted for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction*

“Each pod has pride and virtue, each feels above the other. They do not know they share one fatal flaw: they think they know this ocean.”

Atmospheric and immersive Laline Paull’s Pod takes us on an exploration of cetacean life both in its beauty and in the struggle for survival against threats – from environmental and man-made to the struggle among various species of marine life for dwindling resources for sustenance and a safe space to call home.

The narrative is shared by Ea, a spinner dolphin separated from her pod after a tragedy who ultimately ends up forced to become a member of the Megapod of bottlenose dolphins; a lone Rorqual whale whose sad song Ea hears; a giant Napoleon Wrasse who also finds himself alone; and Google, a military-trained dolphin who has spent most of his life in the company of “anthrops”. In the course of the story, we also meet a parasitic Remora fish that attaches itself to Ea and the salpa salpa, tranquilizer fish that are consumed for their ability to induce sleep and help with pain among the cetacean creatures.

In presenting the story from these unique PoVs and depicting the affection and unity amongst those in the same pod, the empathy and concern for one another and how they are often helpless in the face of exploitation and external interference, the author does a brilliant job of humanizing these sea creatures. The author’s impeccable research is evident in how she describes oceanic life. The author’s vivid imagery of the depths of the ocean and marine life as seen from the perspective of its inhabitants as their perception of the world above and the “demons” that threaten their way of life and their very existence is stunning in its detail. The author is unflinching when she talks about how human interference has resulted in dwindling populations of ocean life, unsafe and polluted living conditions and has disrupted the marine ecosystem and the life cycles and habits of the different species. Ultimately, this is a story of family, sacrifice, loss and survival in the face of life-threatening forces beyond one’s control.

“Their homewater was no more, powerful devils were ripping the ocean apart and their screaming was killing pods of pilots, of humpbacks, of dolphins. There were nets of death where once was open water, there were great rents in the seabed. Death was everywhere, people were fleeing, the ocean was either full of refugees or terrifyingly empty.”

Please note that this is not an easy story to read. This is not anthropomorphism for amusement or comic effect. It is far from that. While this novel isn’t a lengthy story, it is a heavy one. It ventures into dark territory with instances of violence, assault, descriptions of mass casualties of marine animals and much more.

As the author writes in her Note:
“A changing ocean, becoming inexplicably hostile. The struggle for resources, the anxiety, the anger. The ocean is full of miracles, not least the fact that it gives us the oxygen for every other breath we take. Our survival is inextricably linked to ocean health, yet our species continues to degrade and exploit it. Terrible details to face, yet countless wonders. How could we do this to our world? How can we stop it?”

Heartbreaking yet informative and enlightening, Pod by Laline Paull is a relevant and timely story that conveys an important message. It is surely a story that will stay with me.

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srms.reads | 4 other reviews | Sep 4, 2023 |



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