The Bee Sting by Paul Murray [7/10]

Much praised Irish novelist Paul Murray’s first three books whizzed past me but I am making amends. A third of the way through The Bee Sting, a voluptuous, multi-point-of-view modern saga of an Irish family in financial, spiritual, and emotional chaos, it struck me that I was reading a fresh take on Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. Like that wonderment, The Bee Sting cycles around different characters, after a financial crash and amidst a clearly signalled climate crisis crash: teenage daughter Cassie, frantically caught up in the web of a glamorous friend; younger son PJ, anxious for stability and immersed in the online gaming world; mother Imelda, beautiful but unrefined, her sections told as a stream of consciousness befitting her oscillating mind; and, most centrally, father Dickie, heading for bankruptcy with his father’s business and wracked by secrets, a man of gentleness beset in his world. The author’s four different prose styles boil and bubble wonderfully and his interlaced plot is carefully woven. This is a novel to be read slowly, the mood oscillating between dread and clever humor. Admire the author’s virtuosic juggling of stories and witness the four souls fan apart and then seek to converge as the end approaches via frenetic character switching. I recommend The Bee Sting highly, predicting you will either swoon by the end or, like me, nod with admiration while deciding that the author’s climactic plotting took the characters beyond what the rest of this 596-page journey presaged.

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