Book of the Month – October 2023

Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov

Little Starhorodivka, a village of three streets, lies in Ukraine’s Grey Zone, the no-man’s-land between loyalist and separatist forces. Thanks to the war, only two residents remain: retired safety inspector turned beekeeper Sergey Sergeyich and Pashka, his “frenemy” from his schooldays.

With little food and no electricity, under ever-present threat of bombardment, Sergeyich’s one remaining pleasure is his bees. As spring approaches, he knows he must take them far from the Grey Zone so they can collect their pollen in peace...

Grey Bees is a quietly powerful novel from one of Ukraine's greatest living writers. 

Read it? Let us know what you think on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HBOTM.

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Further reading

Andrey Kurkov: I’m writing Ukraine’s story — this is my war effort, The Times 

Ukraine's Andrey Kurkov on shock, optimism and the resilience of ordinary people, CBC 

About the authors

Andrey Kurkov was a journalist, prison warder, cameraman and screenplay-writer before he became well known as a novelist. Born near Leningrad in 1961, he received “hundreds of rejections” and was a pioneer of self-publishing, selling more than 75,000 copies of his books in a single year. His novel Death and the Penguin, his first in English translation, became an international bestseller, translated into more than thirty languages. 

Boris Dralyuk is a poet, translator, and critic. He holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA, and has taught there and the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He currently teaches in the English Department at the University of Tulsa. His work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, London Review of Books, The Guardian, Granta, and other journals. In 2020 he received the inaugural Kukula Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Book Reviewing from the Washington Monthly. In 2022 he received the inaugural Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize from the National Book Critics Circle for his translation of Andrey Kurkov’s Grey Bees

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a book we love and think holds particular resonance. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry year-round.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HBOTM and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HBOTM.

Happy reading!