Booklist Reviews

Bea Stuart is the informal but undisputed leader of mums of the students at St. Ambrose Church Primary School, and for years, Rachel Mason has been her best friend and confidante. But after Rachel's husband leaves her for another woman, Rachel finds herself, suddenly and without warning, outside her former inner circle. As Bea gets a job, and new residents join the community, the mothers' social and power structures shift, with a new headmaster adding a note of piquancy. (And just to emphasize the title's theme, Rachel's mother keeps bees and provides selected information about the apian way.) Occasional tragedy strikes during the academic year described, but generally first-novelist Hornby displays a light, witty touch in masterfully delineating a quirky cast of characters, among them cynical Georgie, who hides her deep love of her expanding family and can throw together a gourmet lunch in minutes with what she grows in her own greenhouse, and Bea's daughter, Scarlett, a mean girl learning well the lessons of her mother. Alternately touching and satirical but consistently entertaining. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

This debut novel got a lot of buzz when a publishers' bidding war resulted in a six-figure contract for Hornby, a talented newbie author with well-known writers in the family. (Nick Hornby is her brother and Robert Harris, her husband.) Taking place over the course of a year at St. Ambrose Church Primary, this is a delectable comedy of manners about mothers who congregate during drop-off and pickup, hold fundraisers, and curry favor with Bea, acknowledged queen of the St. Ambrose hive. When the school year starts, recently divorced Rachel, age 40, discovers she has been unceremoniously dropped by Bea and she struggles to find her new place in the social structure. Hornby observes Rachel briefly, then turns to other mothers in her circle, moving on from each and before coming back—much as Rachel's mother checks on the bees in her backyard hive. VERDICT The familiar notion that a group of women behaves like a hive is developed here into an enjoyably acerbic social commentary on mean girls of all ages, lightened by touches of hen lit.—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA

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