| LONDON, July 31
LONDON, July 31 Three years ago playwright
Laline Paull began to notice bees in her garden in Sussex,
southeast England. Her interest was inspired by the death of a
"Angie had breast cancer, and she wasn't going to make it. I
was awed at her graciousness in the face of her terror and when
she died, in order to keep that feeling of how wonderful she
was, I started reading about bees. She was gone but the bees
were not gone."
The more Paull read the more inspired she was.
"Everything I read made me think 'Wow, they do that? They
fly how far? It takes how many bees their whole lives to make a
teaspoon of honey?'"
The result is her debut novel, "The Bees", a story of
intense drama within a hive, framed by a biological integrity
that intrigues and informs.
Through the protagonist Flora we learn of the hive mind, the
blissful scent of mother love, nectar gathering, and encroaching
sickness. The pampered drones (male bees) are sketched with
expert humour as the females 'worship to his maleness', before
Paull studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los
Angeles and theatre in London. She is a member of BAFTA and the
Writer's Guild of America. She spoke to Reuters about "The
Q: Do you keep bees yourself?
A: No. I would like to one day.
Q: How much authenticity is there in the social organization
of the beehive?
A: The all-female society was fascinating: The queen is the
mother of all. The mother-love scent is real. If the queen is
ailing, the bees will make new queen cells around the edge as if
they are hiding them. Then the first princess out will pipe out
a war cry, she will seek the others and kill them in a fight to
the death. It's brutal nature, 'red in tooth and claw'.
The drones (male bees) are so comic in an affectionate way.
Well, a lot of women feel that about a lot of men. I thought
that would be poignant. That is what the human animal is like:
You don't realise that it's all going to come to an end.
Q: Were your intended readers adults?
A: I just wanted to write a good story, I was fascinated by
the drama of bee life, the violence, the beauty and the poetry
that I saw there.
Q: Is there a deeper message - about preserving bees?
A: As I went more deeply into the research I was confronted
by the plight of bees as pollinators and the use of pesticides.
It's a strong drama underpinned by the truth, and every time I
was wondering which way to go in the narrative I went back to
the real biology of the hive. Colony collapse disorder is
endemic now, in parts of China people are pollinating by hand.
Q: Have you been surprised by the success of your book?
A: Yes. So thrilled it seems to have struck a chord. I'm
getting tweets from 10-year-olds and people in their 80s, and
even beekeepers saying how much they enjoyed it. That's really
Q: You have a background in screenwriting, and theatre - why
fiction for this story?
A: Fiction is always where I was headed. The bar is so high,
but a good book is such a wonderful thing, so pure between you
and the reader.
Q: Can you see it being made into a film?
A: I don't know. It would have to be somebody pretty
visionary to avoid the trap of making it cutesy: Please God no
love story between Flora and the drones. I almost don't dare to
think of it.
Q: If you had to liken "The Bees" to another book, what
would it be?
A: That's a dangerous question. I love Aldous Huxley, I love
George Orwell - that sense of alienation and somebody struggling
to make sense of the world.
Q: Will you continue with this nature theme in your next
A: Yes. I've always been interested in the natural world and
it gave me huge pleasure as a child. I could be absorbed for
hours by sticklebacks in a jar; that sounds like such a bucolic
pleasure now. Being able to immerse myself in research about the
natural world is such a joy. Nature is amazing.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Hugh Lawson)