Culture Street


The Hive by Gill Hornby

On October 28, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

There has been much hype leading up to the release of this book.  Gill Hornby is the sister of acclaimed writer Nick Hornby and her husband is Robert Harris whose recent novel An Officer and a Spy we will be reviewing next week. The Hive is Gill Hornby’s first novel. It has been sold into 12 territories and the film rights already secured.

As the mother of four children one wonders who her many characters are based on. Obviously knowledge of the school gate has been paramount in the penning of this novel. Hornby’s shrewd and humorous look at the social school set will bring a smile to the faces of all those mothers who have cowered at the school gate not wanting to enter into a conversation on the brilliance of everybody else’s children.

Set is the idyllic Home Counties; St Ambrose is a primary school with a set hierarchy. Bea, short for Beatrice, is without a doubt the queen bee. She organises everybody, chairs the fundraising committee and is the hub of all playground gossip. Everyone is daunted by her, everyone wants to be her. Deborah Green (Bubba for short) has recently arrived at St Ambrose having had a welcome escape from the private sector. With a background in PR she begins to assert herself swiftly getting Bea offside.

Rachel has always been Bea’s right hand man, but since her fall from grace, she recently separated from her husband, she has found herself sitting on the sidelines. Dowdy Heather has been taken under Bea’s wing as Rachel’s replacement. Heather has had a makeover, thanks to Bea, and has flung herself into exhaustive events to assist the fundraising committee.

New arrival Melissa sparks Rachel’s interest. She seems less showy than the rest, more keen to quietly help than to be seen by all to be assisting with grandiose gestures. In the meantime new principal Mr Orchard has arrived. Quickly assessed to be single, he is immediately registered as quite a catch within the female community of St Ambrose.

Hornby has written a witty novel that rings true. Underneath the humour lies the dark reality that school communities can descend into a bear pit with parents pitting not just themselves, but their children against each other. The one clear rule being to never speak about the success of your child, not if you want friends.

Set in a complete school year from one autumn to the next, The Hive is a novel that will make you laugh out loud and nod in recognition.

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