The Bee Sting: Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023 by Paul Murray


Harry’s Review:

“The Bee Sting is an Irish tragicomic epic, a family saga following the Barnes family through socioeconomic (and all sorts of) downfall. Murray’s prose is electric and style is matched with substance in abundance. Each turn of the novel is so assured and confident it never finds itself flat-footed. It really is astounding. The final act could have never ended and I’d still want more. The characters are real and their perspectives contour the narrative in all sorts of illuminating ways – Cass’s defiance, PJ’s naivety, Imelda’s pain, Dickie’s heart – I feel like I know these people and in a way we all do. Undoubtedly, this novel is a triumph and it feels so easy giving it such high praise. With sentences that can pack a gut-punch and also make you laugh out loud, with descriptions as evocative as can be, you will fall in love with this unlikely cast, this newly downtrodden lot, this family! By the end, you will be thinking about love all over again.”

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The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie’s once-lucrative car business is going under – but rather than face the music, he’s spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker with a renegade handyman. His wife Imelda is selling off her jewellery on eBay while their teenage daughter Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge-drink her way to her final exams. And 12-year-old PJ is putting the final touches to his grand plan to run away from home. Where did it all go wrong? A patch of ice on the tarmac, a casual favour to a charming stranger, a bee caught beneath a bridal veil – can a single moment of bad luck change the direction of a life? And if the story has already been written – is there still time to find a happy ending?