What a way to start March and also to celebrate Matt's debut novel, Orphan Monster Spy on World Book Day. I can't honestly wait to sink myself into this book, with current affairs in the world at the moment OMS is the book to watch out for and really resonates with the celebration of female heroes. We certainly need more of them.
As I said I still need to read this book, so my review will be up a little later in the month. So today Matt has written a guest post about the a female hero called Flora 717 from The Bees. But before that here is a little bit about the phenomenal new book from Matt...Orphan Monster Spy.
A Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school in this highly commercial, relentlessly nail-biting World War II drama!
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah--blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish--finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can't attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she's ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined.
Release date - March 8th 2018
Publisher - Usborne
Flora 717 from The Bees
I love Watership Down with a burning Frith-like passion. It’s a deep, emotional, terrifying and multi-layered work and much of what I’ve learned about responsibility or leadership in my life comes from that book and the universe around it. Yet, like Tolkein’s work, there are virtually no female characters of note. To anyone pointing out the patriarchal nature of rabbit society, I have to say – this isn’t real. No fiction is truly realistic and the exclusion of female, LGBT+ and characters of colour in your fiction is a choice – even if it’s often a subconscious one. I guess Richard Adams was a product of his era, but the promotion of Hyzenthlay to Co-Chief Rabbit in the 1996 follow-up Tales from Watership Down suggests that he had become aware of this gender imbalance.
Laline Paull’s debut The Bees inevitably draws comparison with Adam’s masterwork – s’animals innit? – but turns the patriarchy on its head, by setting a tale of inequality and control, freedom and choice in the matriarchal world of the beehive.
Born within the rigid strata of bee society, Flora 717 is the lowest of the low, part of the janitor caste and underclass of hive existence. Bigger, darker and uglier than she should be, as well as gifted with the power of speech above her station, her life seems doomed to be a short one at the hands of the deformity police. It’s never clear whether the Sage, of the highest priestess class, who rescues 717 and promotes her to the royal nursery, is part of some conspiracy to stimulate variation in an endangered hive. Certainly, Sister Sage’s actions border on the sacrilegious. But beyond this early intervention 717 forges her own destiny and rises through the hierarchy, all the while buffeted by competing chemical and biological imperatives.
717 wants to lay her own eggs – a terrible blasphemy punishable by instant death – yet her own desires sit within her fierce loyalty to the hive and the dying Queen. She battles their dangerous wasp cousins, negotiates with spiders, manoeuvres through complex internal politics and the deadly polluted countryside, before finally leading a revolution born of the need to survive.
The novel discusses fundamentalist religion, fanaticism and choice over fertility, themes reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, yet unlike Offred, 717 has no memory of a better time or a more humane system. She is working off instinct – an instinct to nurture, to defend. 717 is an insect, yet she’s addressing issues of women the world over – working mothers, women with no control over their lives, women held in frameworks of responsibility and mental load, the poor, marginalised and disenfranchised.
Pretty good for a bug.
I've never read Watership Down but I think after Orphan Monster Spy and this post I need an education on female heroes.
Matt Killeen was born in Birmingham and, like many of his generation, was absorbed by tales of the war and obsessed with football from an early age. Guitars arrived at fourteen, wrecking any hopes of so-called normality. He has had a great many careers – some creative, some involving laser guns – and has made a living as an advertising copywriter and largely ignored music and sports journalist. He fulfilled a childhood ambition and became a writer for the world’s best-loved toy company in 2010. He lives near London with his soulmate, children, dog and musical instruments, looking wistfully north at a hometown that has been largely demolished & rebuilt in his lengthy absence.Orphan Monster Spy is his first novel.Twitter | Goodreads
Sound amazing right?! I can't wait to read Orphan Monster Spy. We need more authors like Matt and his characters like Sarah. Be sure to stop by A Little But A Lot next on this blog tour for celebration of female heroes.