Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Helen ran away from home as a young teenager. Bad things happened to her and she had a baby too young to know how to look after it. That baby was taken away by the System. But twenty years later that baby comes looking for her and along with love and hope comes a need to face the past, especially when her baby, her bee, has children of her own.

I don’t want to say much more about the plot of the story because that would ruin the novel. I will say that Alex Morrall approaches the complexities of Helen’s life with careful consideration, thinking through how hard it is to live with truths we would all want to run from. Helen’s mental health naturally suffers and Alex Morrall develops a linguistic tic – Beep. Beep. Bop. – that represents Helen’s attempts to run from the pain that still lives in her mind.

The story is a difficult, but heart-warming one and would make a wonderful read for a book group eager to explore all the issues that surround the characters. Mental health, social services, racism and abuse are all explored and looked at from multiple facets with different perspectives coming in to give their sides of the story. This is a modern, multicultural Britain in all its beauty and ugliness. 

For those of you interested in exploring more, I’ll be discussing this novel with Alex Morrall at City Writes, the showcase for all the wonderful writing coming out of City, University of London’s creative writing short courses, this Wednesday 7th July at 7pm on zoom. You can register here.

I’ll be reviewing Everybody by Olivia Laing next.