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The Bee Sting

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023

Paul Murray



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11 August 2023
Irresistibly funny, wise and thought-provoking - a tragicomic tour de force about family, fortune, and the struggle to be a good person when the world is in meltdown...

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 exasperated wife Imelda is selling off her jewellery on eBay and half-heartedly dodging the attentions of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike, while their teenage daughter Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge-drink her way to her final exams. And twelve-year-old PJ, in debt to local sociopath 'Ears' Moran, 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 road, 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?

Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 35mm
Weight:   721g
ISBN:   9780241353967
ISBN 10:   0241353963
Pages:   656
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Paul Murray was born in Dublin in 1975 and is the author of An Evening of Long Goodbyes, Skippy Dies, The Mark and the Void and The Bee Sting. An Evening of Long Goodbyes was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and nominated for the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. Skippy Dies was shortlisted for the Costa Novel award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and longlisted for the Booker Prize. The Mark and the Void won the Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2016. Paul Murray lives in Dublin.

Reviews for The Bee Sting: Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023

"It can't be overstated how purely pleasurable The Bee Sting is to read. Murray's brilliant new novel, about a rural Irish clan, posits the author as Dublin's answer to Jonathan Franzen . . . A 650-page slab of compulsive high-grade entertainment, The Bee Sting oozes pathos while being very funny to boot . . . Murray's observational gifts and A-game phrase-making render almost every page - every line, it sometimes seems - abuzz with fresh and funny insights . . . At its core this is a novel concerned with the ties that bind, secrets and lies, love and loss. They're all here, brought to life with captivating vigour in a first-class performance to cherish * Observer (Anthony Cummins) * The Bee Sting is the finest novel that Murray has yet written and will surely be one of the books of 2023 . . . It bears comparison to the brilliant comic writer Jonathan Coe... But Murray is his own writer, capable of keeping a multi-faceted and compulsive plot moving along with alacrity and confidence, while seamlessly blending drama, comedy and heartbreak... For 13 years, Paul Murray has been best known as the author of Skippy Dies. That, I suspect, is about to change * Sunday Independent * Immersive, brilliantly structured, beautifully written, so dense yet so compelling, [and] as laugh-out-loud funny as it is deeply disturbing . . . The Bee Sting is as ambitious as anything that has gone before, but with a focus and shape that grants it great depth as well as breadth. Seriously, all you need is this, your suntan lotion and a few days off work and you're good to go . . . I didn't see the plot twists coming. And they keep on coming, And coming again . . . I began with an ovation. I'll end abruptly, and in awe... Paul Murray, the undisputed reigning champion of epic Irish tragicomedy, has done it again * The Spectator (Ian Samson) * Expertly foreshadowed and so intricately put together, a brilliantly funny, deeply sad portrait of an Irish family in crisis . . . Murray is triumphantly back on home turf - troubled adolescents, regretful adults, secrets signposted and exquisitely revealed, each line soaked in irony ranging from the gentle to the savage . . . We live though hundreds of pages on tenterhooks, and the suspense and revelations keep coming until the end [...] He is brilliant on fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, grief, self-sabotage and self-denial, as well as the terrible weakness humans have for magical thinking... A tragicomic triumph, you won't read a sadder, truer, funnier novel this year * Guardian (Justine Jordan) * A triumph. The Bee Sting deserves all the praise I am heaping on it. It is generous, immersive, sharp-witted and devastating; the sort of novel that becomes a friend for life * Financial Times (John Self) * This bumper novel is already gaining plaudits as the book of the summer, and if it's a meaty, heart punching, expertly executed family saga you need this August, then you can stop the search now . . . Murray delivers scarcely a duff sentence in a 600-page novel that's pure unadulterated pleasure. It's been compared to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections; I'd argue it's better than that * Daily Mail (Claire Allfree) * No one writes tragicomedy as good as this . . . Both brilliant entertainment and a penetrating look at the human condition, as heavy with pathos as it is rich with humour. And if 650 pages asks a lot of the reader, in this case it more than delivers * i * Delightfully rackety, raucously funny... The Bee Sting is on a par with Skippy Dies, Murray's most beloved book, and certainly exceeds it in ambition. A masterpiece * Irish Independent * Murray is a natural storyteller who knows when to withhold, to indulge, to surprise. He specialises, like Dickens, in lengthy sagas that are mammoth in scope, generous with detail and backstory, flush with humour and colourful characters, all of it steeped in social realism . . . Ambitious, expansive, hugely entertaining tragicomic fiction * Irish Times (Sarah Gilmartin) * Carefully paced, brilliantly convincing and helped along by plenty of subtle satire . . . A huge, marbled wagyu steak of a novel that ranges confidently from humane to horrifying. It's a classic family saga in the mode of The Corrections or The Sound and the Fury . . . Murray delights in taking a stock type - the sullen pubescent, the frazzled mother - and exploding it with ambiguity and empathy . . . An immensely enjoyable piece of expert craftsmanship * The Times (James Riding) * This novel is as generous, expansive, and glorious as a cathedral, as intimate as pillow-talk, and as funny and heartbreaking as nothing you've read before. Paul Murray may just be the most spellbinding storyteller writing today. A magisterial piece of work -- Neel Mukherjee, author of 'The Lives of Others' Bold [and] expansive . . . Paul Murray is consistently inventive, observant and funny. He is on intimate terms with this preteen boy, this teenage girl, this lost middle-aged man and this semi-educated woman, and he knows how to make them vivid . . . The pages turn rapidly as farce and tragedy converge, the latter threatening to get the upper hand * Times Literary Supplement * Utterly absorbing . . . Every perfectly tooled sentence slips down as cleanly as an ice-cold Negroni * Daily Mail ‘2023 Summer Reads’ * Fluid, funny and clever, exceptionally smartly structured . . . There's laughter in every other line, but there's also a compassion and a midlife wisdom at work * Literary Review (Paul Genders) * Funny, dark, moving and deeply humane. It's also driven by an inexorable tragic force, and Murray's intricate narrative dexterity makes it very easy to keep turning all those hundreds of pages * Observer (Summer Reads - Mark O’Connell) * This epic, many-layered tragicomedy of an Irish family in crisis is as pleasurable to read as it is emotionally devastating * Guardian ('Summer Stories') * A family lurches into financial and emotional crisis in full view of judgmental neighbours in this astute, remorselessly funny novel about how people are invariably more complex than they first appear . . . Murray tackles some of the biggest issues facing our society in a thoughtful, tragicomic novel exploring smalltown society and social class * Daily Mirror (Huston Gilmore) * Breathtaking, blackly comic, Murray's style is entirely and distinctively his own . . . Handling the plot as if it were a Rubik cube, [he] gives each character their voice in a carousel of first-person accounts, tracking backwards and into the present . . . The Bee Sting is an immersion in the tragedy of what-might-have-been * Herald (Rosemary Goring) * The tale of a dysfunctional family trying to hold things together. It's a thing of beauty, a novel that will fill your heart -- Alex Preston * Observer, 'Fiction to look out for in 2023' * The Bee Sting has resulted in Murray being heralded ""Dublin's Jonathan Franzen"" . . . No one does bittersweet comic novels quite like Murray - fans of his 2010 boarding school comedy Skippy Dies will be aching to get their hands on this * iNews (Leila Slimani) * I experienced just about every possible human emotion while reading The Bee Sting, and at an intensity I have not felt with a work of fiction for a long time. Its ambition and scale are astonishing, and as a sheer technical feat of storytelling it is remarkable. Reading it, I was constantly reminded of what the novel as an artform is capable of, and what it is for. It might be a bold claim to make, of the author of Skippy Dies, that this new book is the best thing Paul Murray has ever done - but I'm making it anyway, because it's true -- Mark O'Connell, author of 'To Be A Machine' The idea of being swept up and spat out by falsehoods runs through much of Murray's work . . . There are storylines about doomsday preppers and local GAA teams; themes of class, economic collapse, ecological catastrophe . . . Murray's conversations have an expansive tendency. A single thread can lead him outwards in a web of connections, metaphors, jokes, before he lands smoothly back on the point * Irish Times (Niamh Donnelly) * Murray gives us a capacious story of one Irish family that is entertaining, heartbreaking and surprising - few of the characters turn out to be exactly who you thought they'd be * iNews (Gwendolyn Smith) * I'm looking forward to Paul Murray's new family saga, The Bee Sting; he's such a sharp and funny writer -- David Nicholls Paul Murray is my favourite young Irish novelist and The Bee Sting confirms all of his talents. Settle in for a hilarious whirlwind of a familial socioeconomic misadventure as only Murray would write it -- Gary Shteyngart, author of 'Super Sad True Love Story' Every sentence in Paul Murray's brilliant family drama The Bee Sting crackles with wit and ingenuity * iNews (Michael Delgado) * A coruscating return for a novelist who's been keeping us waiting for something special since 2010's Skippy Dies . . . a tragicomedy that never stints on great jokes - even at its saddest * The Daily Telegraph *"

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