Welcome to a humorous and not entirely accurate take on my life: The Hive by Gill Hornby. This novel is about moms on the school yard, moms picking up and dropping off their kids and moms being, at times, rather nasty to one another. It has made me look at my life in an entirely different way. It has also highlighted the differences between the Canadian school culture, from which I came, and the British school system that I am now fully inhabiting.
The Hive is a subtly brilliant novel. Hornby finds drama in the seemingly banal happenings around a school. At the core of her story are four women at varying degrees of popularity on the school yard. Heather is striving, constantly striving to get in with the cool kids, er moms, especially Bea, the Queen Bee. Rachel has found herself suddenly dropped from the cool moms. Georgie is there to provide a dose of reality and Bubba is the new mom on the block.
Each chapter is framed over the course of a school day – from drop off to pick up and the story is set over the period of a school year. When I saw Hornby at the Edinburgh Book Fest she commented that the school year makes for a perfect three part drama. In autumn term everything is fresh and new. The parents and students are glad of another year beginning. The middle term is when all the disasters happen: kids come home with nits and lice, the roof starts to leak and bullying rears its ugly head. With the spring term comes a bit of redemption. As one of the characters reflects, “This was her favorite term: white ankle socks, gingham frocks, grass, rounders … She took a deep breath of gleeful anticipation. Ah. She just couldn’t wait.”
Who would like this book? Given the title of the novel and all the bee imagery, it is no surprise that Hornby was significantly influenced by Rosalind Wiseman‘s book about teenage cliques, Queen Bees and Wannabes and her follow up study Queen Bee Moms and King Pin Dads. Tina Fey was similarly inspired when she wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls. I would also pair it up with Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (my review). Both offer humorous, though rather different, takes on school societies. In either case, I would say that if you are a parent with school age children and you are constantly doing that school run, then this book is for you. If that does not sound like the story of your life, then you are still probably familiar with the horror of cliques, and this book will surely make you laugh about them.