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Book Review: "The Bee Sting" by Paul Murray

2/5 - It's alright, but nothing more...

By Annie KapurPublished 24 days ago 4 min read
From: Amazon

On the way home Elaine told Cass she was going to post her poem on her Instagram. She had discovered that there was a new generation of lady poets who posted their poems online and got millions of views. They wrote about real-life issues, like racism and homophobia, and were friends with singers, influencers and other celebrities. You could actually become seriously famous from poetry, Elaine noted.

- The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

I had been putting off reading this for a long time honestly only because I kept forgetting about it though it floundered around my list of books I desperately wanted to read. Finally, when I got around to it, I found it was a mixed bag and though I did not really have any expectations to be shattered or changed, I found that this book did make me feel a whole range of emotions. Though I found the author's writing of women to be very typically of the male gaze from time to time, often reducing women's personalities down to their looks - I can say that the story itself was alright.

I found parts of the poetry book discovery section to be the best and more than often, the Death of a Salesman part of the Barnes' Garage closing to be sentimental rubbish. All in all, this was a middle of the road book with some great emotions but mostly rumbly nonsense. I wouldn't say don't read it, just approach it without expectation. Don't let the fact that it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize trick you into thinking it's brilliant. It's not terrible, but it certainly isn't brilliant. It's just good. Emotional, but forgettable. This is not a 'book for the ages' and is probably barely a book for the next five years. Honestly, it made for an okay reading experience but turns out to be a not something you feel or think about for too long. It doesn't move you at all afterwards. Just for the time.

Elaine and Cassandra (or 'Cass') are two friends living in rural Ireland, discontented with life like teenage girls are and wanting to run away to a big city where they can be whoever they want. Obsessed with social media and finding their new English Teacher on there, they become enamoured with poetry (because all modern teens do, don't they?). I just want to take a side note here to say that it is more than clear that Paul Murray has probably never met a teen girl of the modern day - most of them could not care less about poetry - and that is coming from an English teacher who has both tried teaching it and seen other people teaching it. They simply do not care. They want to write their own poems and become 'Lady Poets' (because that's the way teenager girls talk about women, according to the world of Paul Murray).

Imelda is Cass's mother who has no personality but looks like a goddess. And the author has a propensity to slip into the male gaze writing to desperately describe how lovely she always looks regardless of her actual wants and needs as a human being. She is the trope of the 'catty hot lady' which makes my eyes roll with despair because it is neither funny nor well-written. Her story is interesting. Once we learn about her wedding day and why there are no pictures of it, we get a symbol that returns to the book ad nauseam and plays out pretty well to give the book some deeper meaning. I just wish he wrote this woman some personality. But alas, she is blonde and attractive which means to a male writer, she doesn't need one because all that matters is her looks.

From: Amazon

When we get to the part where Cass receives the poetry book in the post, I think we actually have hit the high point of the book. Cass's initial grief and disappointment about the book is projected back on to the things she feels she cannot tell her best friend out of fear of ruining their friendship. Instability plus feeling inferior almost constantly begin to consume aspects of Cass's life, which she wants to spend with her best friend, Elaine. This is then again projected back on to her treatment of her gamer-trope little brother, PJ. Cass's underlying instability of position is everywhere in the book and consumes it from the moment she realises there are no wedding pictures of her parents. It is probably the only really well written part of the book.

We get a whole host of characters in the book, many of which have pretty interesting stories if they were expanded upon and actually given some intense personality traits, but seem to fall flat as only average snapshots of life in a style you would expect a guest star on Seinfeld to be. Big Mike, Aunt Rose, the Brazillian Housekeeper etc. However, the interesting thing about events not being what they seem to be struck me as more interesting than the characters involved. For example: the wedding scene is somewhat different to what is relayed to the reader.

All in all, there are more disadvantages than advantages in this novel and I found it to drag on towards an ambiguous conclusion which was in no way satisfying. Though it was good, it was only good for a time and did not wow me in any way. It falls flat, boring and rather repetitive after a while and its length doesn't support slugging through it if a family drama full of Chinese Whisper is not your thing.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

Secondary English Teacher & Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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Comments (2)

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  • Janet B. Francis23 days ago

    I just like this post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kendall Defoe 24 days ago

    I will keep this review in mind. Thanks.

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