The Hive: A Novel
by Gill Hornby
Hardcover- N/A

There's only room for one Queen Bee: A hilarious and touching novel about the social world of school mothers.

It's the start of another ...

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  "The Hive, Gill Hornby" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 12/13/13

The title of the book is appropriate, for the hive mentality is evident on each page. The queen prevents chaos and brings about order. The need to be part of her group, to follow her lead, is everywhere. All drones are not alike, but apparently, all queens are, although their methods may differ. They are strong and call the shots.
This book is about the dynamic of the community mentality, the need to worship and conform to the leader’s control. The group gathers round the most popular individual until she wears her welcome out. Then they choose another “queen’ and happily become her prey, her victims, and her followers. How long she will last, no one really knows. There is peer pressure in this “hive”; it could alternately be called a “mob”, for their mentality is surely mindless, at times, and that is fundamentally what makes this group cohesive! Their need to belong is huge. Their need to feel good at the expense of another is obvious. Schadenfreude is big!
When the book begins, it is the first day of school for the children who attend the St. Ambrose School. The mothers are gathering and chatting, coming together after the hiatus of summer vacation. They play catch up and meet to chitchat and plan fundraisers to support the needs of the school. The parent's association is like a shark tank with catty women trying to take control and others trying to one-up each other.
There is so much humor written into the dialogue, maybe not the laugh out loud kind, but definitely the I have to chuckle at this kind or the nod of the head kind, like I remember someone like this or I knew someone who went through that. It is written about young women with kids in grade school, and yet, I think to fully appreciate this novel, it needs to be read by a more mature adult who has actually lived the experiences already, who has memories of the breakups of friend’s marriages, of friends who were less than stellar housekeepers, of friends who were always competing, of friends who were bullies and had to have their way, of friends everyone flocked to for no apparent reason other than they seemed to be part of “the beautiful people” crowd, whatever that is, of friends who without warning could snub you and force you out of the group because they had the special magnetism that everyone was attracted to, of friends too weak to defend you, of friends who suffered untimely deaths, in other words, the person who can look back without feeling threatened by the less than stellar behavior of the character’s in the story.
I think younger readers might possibly resent looking into the mirror, and unexpectedly, witness themselves staring back, because this is definitely a commentary on modern, me-generation women, perhaps spoiled, definitely gossipy. It is almost a caricature of judgmental mothers, mothers whose children can do nothing wrong, mother’s whose children are miniatures of themselves which can be good or bad, depending on the dominant trait of the parent’s personality. Definitely, this book is about a culture of competitive women who are still in the mode of “sorority girl”, deciding who fits in and who doesn’t, who gets in and who doesn’t. It is about the “mean girl” child who grew up into nothing more than a “mean girl” adult. Even the nicest characters subtly descend into the abyss of resentment and experience the need to control, at some point.
Each of the women featured has a different personality and each is really developed in the novel. One could be called “earth mother”, another all around helper, another “miss perfect”, another miss “know-it-all, and another could be designated as the resident bully. There are the insecure, the confident, the talented, the simply normal with no great gift or talent, the dweller in dream world, the jealous, the immature, and those who need to be accepted, who never feel adequately rewarded or noticed. There are the users, the manipulators, the phonies and frauds, the low key and the high falutin’, the insecure and the arrogant. The mothers of the children attending St. Ambrose are constantly vying for position while disavowing the need to be included in the hierarchy of their social scene. Condemning the group dynamic, they are eager to be included in it.
Each is needy in some way, but somehow, they all do get along, eventually, even though they plot and plan underhanded things to undermine each other. They never seem to be aware of their own meanness. Everyone is fair game. There appears to be little acceptance of anyone’s faults and even less real, heartfelt compassion. They all simply seem to go through the motions in their “groupthink” environment. Nothing is ever taken too seriously and every event is a stepping stone to another. It may not be easy to like some of the characters, but in the end, I think the reader will come to understand what rules govern them and will grow with them as they learn to cope with life’s adversities.
The dynamic of female friends, the dynamic of the clique and the bully who rules it, the rebellion of some members as they become aware of how they are being manipulated to do everything she gets credit for, and the individual ways they thwart her are what the readers will deal with as they read, as they decide for themselves, who is nice and who isn’t, essentially identifying with these judgmental women by forming their own judgments too!
In looking at the ratings of other reviews, it is obvious that this book has a love-hate relationship with the readers. I was one who loved it. It is a light, fun read that exposes the current state of humanity! These adult women could not figure out whether or not they were children like their offspring, or grown-ups like their parents! They were someplace in between, until they “found” themselves.

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