I rarely write about books I don’t enjoy but in the case of The Bee Sting by Paul Murray I feel I should as I spent the better part of my Christmas break reading the 656 pages book and I’m not sure you would want to do the same. The Bee Sting was Booker Prize short-listed and recommended by loads of people and does indeed start off in a very promising way.
The novel is set in Ireland during the early 2000s and is the story of a well-to-do Irish family on the descendant. Their successful car sales business has been badly hit by the financial crisis, the marriage is at a breaking point, the teenage daughter on a rebellious path and her younger brother lost. A sense of doom pervades. The first 250 pages of this book are brilliant. Murray can be very funny and has an uncanny ability to inhabit the minds of a frustrated housewife, a rebellious teenage girl and an unruly 12-year-old. The Bee Sting has all the hallmarks of a perfect holiday read. Then the book stalls, loses its humour, strays into unconvincing subplots and even becomes melodramatic at times. I kept reading, driven by a hope that Murray would return to form and also by the time I had already invested. Alas, my patience did not pay off. Shame, as this had the potential to be one of the best reads of 2023. Onwards and upwards!
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray is published by Hamish Hamilton, 656 pages.