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The Bee Sting
Cover of The Bee Sting
The Bee Sting
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One of The New York Times Top 10 Books of 2023
Winner of the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2023 and the 2023 Nero Book Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize and the 2024 Writers' Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the 2023 Kirkus Prize for Fiction
One of The New Yorker's Essential Reads of 2023. One of The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2023. One of TIME's 10 Best Fiction Books of the Year. Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Guardian, The Economist, New York Public Library, BBC, and more.
From the author of Skippy Dies comes Paul Murray's The Bee Sting, an irresistibly funny, wise, and thought-provoking tour de force about family, fortune, and the struggle to be a good person when the world is falling apart.
The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie's once-lucrative car business is going under—but Dickie is spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker with a renegade handyman. His wife, Imelda, is selling off her jewelry on eBay and half-heartedly dodging the attention of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike, while their teenage daughter, Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge drink her way through her final exams. As for twelve-year-old PJ, he's on the brink of running away.
If you wanted to change this story, how far back would you have to go? To the infamous bee sting that ruined Imelda's wedding day? To the car crash one year before Cass was born? All the way back to Dickie at ten years old, standing in the summer garden with his father, learning how to be a real man?
The Bee Sting, Paul Murray's exuberantly entertaining new novel, is a tour de force: a portrait of postcrash Ireland, a tragicomic family saga, and a dazzling story about the struggle to be good at the end of the world.

One of The New York Times Top 10 Books of 2023
Winner of the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2023 and the 2023 Nero Book Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize and the 2024 Writers' Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the 2023 Kirkus Prize for Fiction
One of The New Yorker's Essential Reads of 2023. One of The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2023. One of TIME's 10 Best Fiction Books of the Year. Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Guardian, The Economist, New York Public Library, BBC, and more.
From the author of Skippy Dies comes Paul Murray's The Bee Sting, an irresistibly funny, wise, and thought-provoking tour de force about family, fortune, and the struggle to be a good person when the world is falling apart.
The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie's once-lucrative car business is going under—but Dickie is spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker with a renegade handyman. His wife, Imelda, is selling off her jewelry on eBay and half-heartedly dodging the attention of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike, while their teenage daughter, Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge drink her way through her final exams. As for twelve-year-old PJ, he's on the brink of running away.
If you wanted to change this story, how far back would you have to go? To the infamous bee sting that ruined Imelda's wedding day? To the car crash one year before Cass was born? All the way back to Dickie at ten years old, standing in the summer garden with his father, learning how to be a real man?
The Bee Sting, Paul Murray's exuberantly entertaining new novel, is a tour de force: a portrait of postcrash Ireland, a tragicomic family saga, and a dazzling story about the struggle to be good at the end of the world.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Paul Murray was born in 1975 in Dublin. He is the author of three novels, including An Evening of Long Goodbyes, which was short-listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. Skippy Dies (2010) was long-listed for the Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Mark and the Void (2015) was the joint winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and was named one of Time's Top 10 Fiction Books of the year.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2023

    His once-gilded car business is going under, but Dickie Barnes would rather spend his time building a doomsday bunker in the woods. Meanwhile, his wife is selling her jewelry, his straight-A teenage daughter has turned to drink, and son PJ is planning to run away. What went wrong? From National Book Award finalist Murray (Skippy Dies); with a 75,000-copy first printing. Prepub Alert.

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 19, 2023
    Secret pasts, forbidden desires, and shattered illusions figure into this ambitious family drama from Murray (Skippy Dies). Dickie Barnes, once a successful car salesman outside Dublin, forsakes the world to build an apocalyptic bunker in the woods. Still, he remains overshadowed by his late charismatic brother, Frank. Meanwhile, Dickie’s wife, Imelda, who can’t shake the feeling she should have married Frank, succumbs to the advances of Big Mike, a bewitching cattle farmer. Mike’s daughter is best friends with Dickie and Imelda’s eldest, the college-bound Cass, who derails her future by yielding to several kinds of temptation. And then there’s Cass’s young brother, PJ, who makes plans to run away from home with a mysterious online friend named Ethan. The prose is lovely, as Murray flits from teen shorthand to lyrical interiority (“Lying in bed that night he gets that running-out-onto-thin-air feeling. Tomorrow yawns beneath him like a chasm”). The third act veers into a baroque tragedy, as Dickie continues work on the bunker and the reader tries to understand how the Barneses got to this point. Is it the financial crash? The bee that stung Imelda on her wedding day? Or adult life “in all its theatre and cruelty”? The questions aren’t always enough to sustain the story, but their open-ended nature provokes readers to hang on to the end.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from July 1, 2023

    In a small town outside of Dublin, an economic downturn spells trouble for the once-affluent Barnes family at the heart of this latest from Murray, perhaps best known for the Booker Prize--shortlisted Skippy Dies. For Cass, finishing up high school, it's the worry that her parents won't be able to send her to university. For her little brother, PJ, it's the illogical fear that they will send him away to boarding school. Shopaholic mother Imelda is forced to curtail her spending and sell off some of her treasures. For father Dickie, who has lived in the shadow of his dead brother, a beloved football star, it's the disgrace of running his father's car business into the ground. Will Grandfather return from his golfing life in Portugal to set things right and save the family from those who threaten them, including a gang of local thugs, a Polish blackmailer, an online predator, and a crackpot survivalist, or will it all implode? VERDICT This is a big, multilayered book full of secrets and surprises. But not a word is wasted in this unsettling, character-rich, devilishly plotted page-turner.--Barbara Love

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from May 15, 2023
    An Irish family's decline is rendered in painful, affecting detail. The opening line says "a man had killed his family" in another town, and "rumours swirled about affairs, addiction, hidden files on his computer." Are these portents of what awaits the Barnes family, who will inhabit the next 650 pages? Certainly they are struggling with an array of problems. In the wake of a recession, the Volkswagen dealership run by Dickie Barnes has seen sales plummet amid a surge in complaints about repair work. A disgruntled client's son threatens to beat Dickie's boy, PJ, with a hammer. PJ's sister, Cass, is struggling with a fickle bestie and booze. Their mother, Imelda, facing her neighbors' schadenfreude, has stopped shopping and dreams that a flood is taking everything away from her. Flashbacks reveal the poverty and old passions that color Dickie and Imelda's marriage. She's still mourning her late fiance, Frank, a handsome star athlete, when she weds his unexceptional brother, Dickie, whose sexual adventures at Trinity College loom over his business worries 20 years later. In his three previous novels, including Skippy Dies (2010), Murray showed a talent for blending humor and pathos. His fans may be dismayed to find almost no humor here. Mainly there is an inexorable trudging from bad to worse, with Murray tirelessly inventing fresh woes for the Barneses. And while financial pressure is a propulsive force--as it is to varying degrees in all his novels--other pressures come into play: sexual, religious, educational, community, parental, peer. It's hard not to feel the author is piling on, not to wonder how the novel might have gained from some comic relief. At the same time, no moment or episode is implausible, and carried by Murray's fine, measured prose and uncanny plotting, the book presents a striking abundance of what for too many may be normal life. A grim and demanding and irresistible anatomy of misfortune.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from May 15, 2023
    Set in Ireland, this latest masterful novel by Murray (The Mark and the Void, 2015) introduces the well-to-do Barnes family. Diffident father Dickie manages two local Volkswagen dealerships until a god-awful depression forces him to close one while the other hangs by a thread. Money is suddenly tight, and mother, the supernally beautiful Imelda, does not take their newly straitened circumstances well. Then there is teenage daughter Cass, who seems determined to drink herself into oblivion in the company of her bestie, Elaine, a quintessential bad influence. Finally, poor PJ, age 12, is a lonely natural-history buff with a white-knuckled horror of being sent to boarding school. Will anything good happen to the fraught family? Murray is a master of the darkly ominous, limning these four seemingly demon-driven lives in granular detail. The novel moves expertly among them, switching from one point of view to another while offering both present circumstances and characters' back stories. Like Murray's Skippy Dies (2010), this is a tour de force, beautifully written (a cat was "so black it looked like a hole in the universe") and perfectly apposite in its tone. It is, in sum, utterly fascinating and unforgettable

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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