image The Hive: Gill Hornby

This book is playground politics gone mad. The mothers of St Ambrose Primary School are pitched against each other in this well observed book from Gill Hornby, detailing the perils of the Car Boot Sale, the Lunch Ladder and of course the Gourmet Gamble…

Hornby brings together a group of women, each with their own agenda, and brings us the horrors of the school gates in clever, fresh prose. I think it’s probably easier to relate to this book if you are a parent, but saying that the essential politics of any group of people can often be boiled down to the bare bones – there is always competition, there are always leaders, there are always outcasts. It’s entertaining watching the characters find ways to get ahead and ways to stay sane – Georgie is a particularly funny addition with a lot of great lines – but the book manages to incorporate darker subjects too; we have a cancer scare, bullying, divorce and suicide to name a few, and you get the sense that Hornby knows real life and isn’t afraid of addressing it.

Readers will identify with the women and their frustrations with each other, recognise their own ‘friendship’ groups and cringe at the endless and unrelenting social calendar which these women are put through – smiling all the while, of course. The setting is very bourgeois, but then it never pretends not to be. This isn’t, I don’t think, a book to blow you away – in my opinion there are better novels on this theme; Liane Moriarty does it well, but then she does everything well.

This is Hornby’s debut novel, so it will be interesting to see what she does next; The Hive received a huge amount of hype, helped by the bold cover which does catch the eye. One knows what to expect though, I think, having known about (and most people do) – the very popular movie Mean Girls, which was of course based on Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabees, and you can watch Hornby on Vimeo, talking about how she had the idea while reading this very same manual. For me, this book didn’t particularly surprise or do anything it wasn’t supposed to, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s entertaining for sure and casts a scarily accurate light on the world of competitive mothers – turns out they can be just as bad as Rachel McAdams et al after all.

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