Former Rothesay pupil Lisa wins Commonwealth Book Prize

Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel, The Death of Bees, has won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.
Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel, The Death of Bees, has won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.

The debut novel by a former Rothesay Academy pupil has won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.

Lisa O’Donnell’s first book, The Death of Bees, has attracted rave reviews from readers across the world since it was published last year.

It tells the grim but often bleakly humorous tale of sisters Marnie and Nelly and their attempts to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Godfrey Smith, chair of the CBP judging panel, said: “This coming-of-age novel is at once a grim, dark, entertaining story about gnawing emotional neglect in the lives of the young protagonists as they struggle to keep their deadly secret – the two young sisters bury their parents in their back garden - literally from being unearthed.

“The Death of Bees is effortlessly fresh and original; it is fiction that provokes and shocks; it is innovative in its narrative style and told in a natural convincing voice, maintaining the high standards of the Commonwealth Book Prize.”

Lisa, who grew up in the Ballochgoy area of Rothesay in the 1980s and now lives in Los Angeles, went on to study at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, and won the Orange Pathe Prize for New Screenwriters in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift.

“I am incredibly proud to have won the Commonwealth Book Prize,” she said.

“I want to say I don’t have words to describe my joy right now, but I’m writer and I’m supposed to have plenty. It’s a huge leap for me in what seemed an impossible step.

“The prodigious voices I stood beside overwhelms me, so many towering stories out there. Thank you to the Commonwealth Judges for their vote of confidence - my gratitude is immeasurable.” 

The Death of Bees was the ‘Canada and Europe’ entry on the 2013 CBP shortlist, and beat off competition from E.E. Sule’s Sterile Sky, the Africa nomination; Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera (Asia), Disposable People: Inspired by True Events by Ezekel Alan (Caribbean), and Michael Sala’s The Last Thread (Pacific).

Lisa’s second novel, Closed Doors, is published on July 4.