What is a Queen Bee? Well, in Jane Fallon’s wry, funny and very sharp new novel (watch you don’t cut yourself as you turn the pages) she’s a woman called Stella who lives in The Close, a leafy north London street of mansions set just behind Hampstead Heath. Stella fits the internet definition of a Queen Bee to the letter. ‘Woman who has a dominant or controlling personality in a particular group or sphere… treats subordinates more critically if they are female.’
And how do you become a Queen Bee? Back to the internet.
Set up a clique.
Be perfect; be beautiful.
Keep your wardrobe constantly updated.
Find a reliable close friend.
Fallon has deftly created a timeless architype – but despite Stella’s prominent role in Queen Bee, she’s not the central character. Oh no. That would be Laura.
Laura’s marriage has imploded and she needs a safe haven for herself and her young daughter, Betsy. Strapped for cash and struggling to keep her modest domestic cleaning business afloat, Laura rents a tiny annexe in a north London mansion. The wealthy young couple who live there welcome her – especially the wife, who hates being alone in the huge house while her husband is away on business – but it’s not long before problems arise.
Laura is an attractive divorcee – and other wives in The Close swiftly suspect she has designs on their men. Stella is most wary of all: she is convinced (wrongly) that Laura made a move on her husband, Al. In fact, Laura has discovered Al’s ghastly secret – and so the unlikeliest of female alliances begins. Another cracking comedy of manners from Jane Fallon.