The Hive by Gill Hornby

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The Hive by Gill Hornby

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: When you read this book you'll wonder if Gill Hornby has been spying on your social group: a great story and some wonderful characters. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408704356

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There's an old joke that, for parents, there are only two good days in the school holidays - the first and the last, but in St Ambrose, the real work begins when the children go back to school at the start of the new school year. There's a new head at the school (and he'll have to be knocked into shape) but the real power is Beatrice - 'Bea' to those whom she elects to call friends for the time being - who rules the parents, decides who is in or out and what status they should have in the community. And how does she do it? Well, she's the queen.

When you read The Hive you will need to relax. A lot of women, mostly of a certain age and with children are going to swarm from the pages and surround you. You will probably struggle to tell one from another, but they will gradually emerge. I recognised Rachel first of all: her marriage has just fallen apart, courtesy of the intern with whom her shortly-to-be-ex husband works. Rachel's at that delicate stage where she's recognising that life isn't actually all that much worse without Chris but he is still the father of her two children and she needs to keep a reasonable relationship for the sake of the kids.

Then there's Bea, who knows that she's the queen and no one can touch her. She leads all the fundraising campaigns, but you'll notice a pattern emerge. She's not the one doing any work. That's not what queens are for, obviously. She dictates who is going to be doing the fundraising lunches - and who should be invited. She'll take credit for any effort, no matter how little of it was her own. It might not have been at the school gates that you met her - but you'll know everything about her and she comes off the page as the monster she is. Gill Hornby's very clever: I would have filled a book with her antics, but Hornby leaves us wanting more.

It's a delicious mixture of betrayal and friendship, of the ways in which the pack operates and the bravery of those who move outside it, whether overtly or less obviously. Hornby has the dynamics perfectly: she captures those subtle shifts of power, of status, effortlessly, along with the injury to the unwitting target of the omission, or the burden dropped on their naked toes. It's pitch-perfect and the plot is woven together in a very elegant and compelling way. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

If The Hive appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, The Whispers by Heidi Perks and Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop.

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Buy The Hive by Gill Hornby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hive by Gill Hornby at


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