Modeled on the patterns of a bee colony, Hornby’s debut is an amusing if predictable social satire on cliquey, needy school-gate mothers, often more immature than their children.
Shaped by a school year and a sequence of fundraising events, Hornby’s novel follows a crew of English women in an unnamed town struggling with peer pressure, personal drama and their places in the pecking order. Bea Stuart is the self-appointed queen of the swarm that assembles twice a day outside St. Ambrose Church Primary. Glamorous, popular and unopposed, Bea is also self-centered and manipulative, yet many other mothers copy her style and crave her friendship. Rachel used to be Bea’s best friend but has been dropped, even though Rachel’s marriage has just fallen apart. Then there are Georgie, previously a lawyer, now a chaotic but happy earth mother; Bubba, a wealthy, out-of-touch newcomer; and Heather, who will do anything to be accepted. Hornby’s strengths are her quick wit and ear for dialogue, but her characters are caricatures, and her story is much too long, padded out further with an incomplete side tale of bullying. The year turns, the community shifts, and like the bees, one queen supplants another.
A tissue-thin saga of small-town relationships redeemed by its humor and rapid-fire exchanges.