Short Stories Challenge – Bees by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Published May 4, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s Bees all about?:

From Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author Sarah Hall comes a collection of unique and disturbing short fiction hailed as a sensation by UK reviewers.

Bees tells the story of a young woman who has moved from the North of England down to London after the break-up of a relationship who notices many dead bees in her friend’s garden and wonders at their significance.

What did I think?:

Bees is the third story in Sarah Hall’s amazing and quite disturbing short story collection which I am thoroughly enjoying despite the darker moments! Our protagonist in this tale is a young woman who has recently moved to London from the North of England after breaking up with her boyfriend and is trying to adjust to life in the big city. After moving in with a friend she is out in the garden one day and notices dozens of dead bees littering the grass. There are so many corpses she wonders what has happened to the insects to cause the accumulation of so many of their bodies in one space. There are some spectacular pieces of prose used by the author to describe how this woman is feeling as she tries to muddle though her thoughts and emotions.

“It occurs to you that it might have been your heart that left you as you reached the capital. Your heart might not have travelled well, closed up in its cavity, quivering and gnawing at the bars of your ribcage during the commute. It might be tracking north now, along edgelands, past spoil-heaps and stands of pylons, under motorway passes, back to the higher ground. Back to him.”

“You wonder about him, what he’s doing. If he’s managing. If he’s thriving. If he’s sorry. If he knows that he might still own your busted-out incendiary heart, and that you’re turning through this new life as uselessly as a shed tractor tyre.”

As you can see from these quotes, the author has a beautiful way with words and a gift for describing the rawness and brutality of emotions that the break-up of a relationship brings. Combined with the ever present link back to the author’s beloved North of England this story is like a big slab of chocolate when you’re on a diet – it makes you feel uncomfortable but you can’t stop reading (eating?) it! Looking back on the relationship, the young woman realises that there was a very important reason why it had to end (bring in the little bit of darkness, Sarah Hall!) but as for anyone who has experienced being in love, the heart cannot be told so easily. I think this is why I found this story so difficult to read emotionally speaking, but on the other hand it was so beautifully written I couldn’t help but immerse myself completely. The ending, as with the previous stories is incredibly ambiguous and I think a lot of things are left open for interpretation. Unfortunately I was slightly disappointed by it having enjoyed the meat of the story so much and am not sure I entirely “get it.” However, this shouldn’t stop anyone from giving it a go as overall it was a truly fascinating piece of writing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Four Rajeshes by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

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