The Bee Sting - Paul Murray

The Bee Sting

By Paul Murray

  • Release Date: 2023-08-15
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
Score: 4
From 348 Ratings


One of The New York Times Top 10 Books of the Year
Winner of the An Post Irish Book of the Year, the Nero Gold Prize, and the Nero Book Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Writers' Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction

One of The New Yorker's Essential Reads of 2023. One of The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2023. One of TIME's 10 Best Fiction Books of the Year. Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Guardian, The Economist, New York Public Library, BBC, and more.

From the author of Skippy Dies comes Paul Murray's The Bee Sting, an irresistibly funny, wise, and thought-provoking tour de force about family, fortune, and the struggle to be a good person when the world is falling apart.

The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie’s once-lucrative car business is going under—but Dickie is spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker with a renegade handyman. His wife, Imelda, is selling off her jewelry on eBay and half-heartedly dodging the attention of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike, while their teenage daughter, Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge drink her way through her final exams. As for twelve-year-old PJ, he’s on the brink of running away.

If you wanted to change this story, how far back would you have to go? To the infamous bee sting that ruined Imelda’s wedding day? To the car crash one year before Cass was born? All the way back to Dickie at ten years old, standing in the summer garden with his father, learning how to be a real man?

The Bee Sting, Paul Murray’s exuberantly entertaining new novel, is a tour de force: a portrait of postcrash Ireland, a tragicomic family saga, and a dazzling story about the struggle to be good at the end of the world.


  • Ugh

    By Bj3551
    Reading this book was agonizing. It boring and incredibly long. The ending was so incredibly stupid. People, save yourself hours of reading-you’ll thank me for it. There are too many good books out there. You can pass on this one.
  • Jaw dropping

    By mrprzy
    So bloody good
  • Wow

    By cl bb
  • Laborious

    By x'q,zzz
    What a slog to get to a nothing ending.
  • How did this book win any literary awards?

    By Vail is my home
    When I start a book, I finish it. I can only recall about three books that I did not finish because they were so bad. This was the third. The characters are not likable, story goes nowhere, and the writing is marginal at best. In the Imelda section there is no punctuation, in a failed attempt to have the reader see the disfunction in her life. The only thing it invoked in me was frustration. Give this one a pass.
  • Beautiful

    By ShannLui
    One of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • Nothing is as it seems

    By downtownLB
    Paul Murrray! What! Wait! Now I know why the book club was excited to discuss the ending. I’m reminded a bit of David F Wallace too from this novel.
  • Just…WOW

    By the_garvers
  • A page turner.

    By DCJon
    The Bee Sting is as juicy, emotional, and saturated as a 1950s technicolor melodrama by Douglas Sirk, yet with a solid moral and literary core. You go deep into the minds and lives of the Barneses—Dickie the dad, Imelda the mom, Cass the daughter, and PJ the son. They’re a prosperous Irish family but one that’s increasingly in trouble, individually and collectively. The yearnings and terrors of each character come vividly to life. The prose is masterful, especially when Imelda holds center stage. Here the author dispenses with most punctuation, but you are never at sea, just deep in her mind (I would almost say her soul). Imelda’s parts put me in mind of the famously unpunctuated ending of Ulysses (And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes . . . .) but it is in no way a hard read. It’s a miracle that so much heart and nuance and almost-but-not-quite florid prose can sink its teeth into you do deeply. The normally punctuated parts convey complicated thoughts and half thoughts as gracefully as a skater doing easy triple lutzes. If I were boarding a transatlantic flight this is the novel I’d want to have with me. I suspect that only an Irish writer could quite pull this off.
  • Surprisingly Good!

    By wynbee
    Initially thought it was a bit juvenile after reading the first section - actually gave up and gave it 2 stars. But came back later and it turned out to be quite a gripping page turner. A somewhat sad and at times sordid saga of a family, that has quite a few surprises in store for the reader, and is clearly a contender for the Prize.