I was given a complimentary copy of ‘The Hive’ by Gill Hornby to review for Mumsnet. There is one spoiler here in the 5th paragraph however, I do give you a warning that it's coming.
So to summarise the story an extract from the back cover: ‘Welcome to St Ambrose Primary School. A world of friendships, fights and feuding. And that’s just the mothers’. Maria Semple said ‘If you loved Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Hive is the book for you’ 'Well I don’t mind saying that I loved Bridget Jones - as a character her bumbling self deprecation made her instantly likeable - so I looked forward to getting stuck in.'
The first hook for me was the beautiful little early twist in the story where the first few pages appear to be describing a couple of school girls in the playground however it swiftly transpires to actually be about the mothers. This was a great little touch that I thought boded well for the rest of the story. Sadly I was disappointed. As we follow the politics of the small group of mums we witness their crumbling allegiance to their Queen Bee (who’s name is Bea). However, I failed to understand how Bea achieved her Goddess-like status in the first place as she was openly and abruptly unpleasant.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad and there were some amusing moments: Georgie, desperate to tidy her kitchen shovels her family’s breakfast wreckage swiftly into her dishwasher; to impress her status as chief organiser of a car boot sale, Bea wears a headset. There is also a pleasing commentary of the functions of an actual bee hive that crops up throughout the book, from Rachel’s bee keeping mother. There are numerous appealingly insightful and often heartwarming observations but frustratingly not much in the way of a plot to knit these all together (‘Heather was a tea cup, life was the storm’)
Ironically when writing this review I felt like a teacher summing up the story as having 'so much potential yet poorly executed'. There were so many opportunities that weren’t explored and some horrific life changing events the characters experienced that were simply glossed over. These notable events (I won’t spoil) are shown little respect as they are simply shoe horned awkwardly in around a group of unconvincing and distinctly unlikeable characters.
Spoiler alert in this next sentence. I was extremely dissatisfied that whilst it was fitting that our Queen Bea met her demise part of this included her gaining weight. I’m not sure what Gill Hornby was trying to articulate here but for me I found it stereotypical and frankly unimaginatively shallow.
I’m sure it was written with a lazy beach holiday in mind as it's swift and untaxing read. However, if I am being honest if I wasn’t given this book to review, I’m sorry to say, I wouldn’t have finished it.