Gill Hornby's debut, one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the year, tackles the tangle of relationships that exist between mothers of children at St Ambrose, a fictional British primary school.
It does not disappoint. In fact, it is an almost entirely entertaining piece of fiction, even if Hornby's use of minutes from school meetings, employed as a plot device to give a fuller description of the characters and their various traits, occasionally ends up slowing the pace.
The Hive is infused with a little romance and a lot of gossip and Hornby crafts characters that women, and especially mothers, can identify with: those who work, have worked, want to work, never want to work again, have no choice but to work, are single, married, divorced, happy, and unhappy, each possessed of their own perceptions and desires.
It is the relationships of these women, who are "intimately familiar, and yet completely remote" from each other, that keeps the reader interested. The Hive, which will be published in May, has moments of depth and comedy, and ultimately reveals itself as an absorbing read.
* Jennifer Brock-Utne