Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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Reviewed by Lucia

Published: 2002

It's about: Fourteen year old Lily Owens has spent her life peach farming with her aggressive and unforgiving father in South Carolina. Suffocated by the belief that she accidentally shot her mother as a child, Lily feels unworthy of love, although with her sole friend being Rosaleen (a black housekeeper), it is the only thing she yearns for. Now in the early 1960's, an explosive event makes Lily aware of the true hatred stirred by racial prejudice. When she and Rosaleen escape, they end up tracing the faint past of Lily's mother, leading them to the pink house of Black Madonna Honey.

I thought: I have hesitated many times in picking up this book, there having been so much hype. I was even more tentative about reviewing it, but in fact I couldn't resist. The Secret Life of Bees is eccentric, sharp, funny, unforgiving, unique and delightfully charming. Narrated by a young girl, Monk Kidd is able force her point through blunt statements whilst still creating an exceptionally original plot and engaging characters.

I really loved the sections about bees. Honestly I never thought I could be so drawn in by the life of insects but I found myself truly interested in how the honey was produced and how the Calendar Sisters went about beekeeping in general. It was wonderful to be shown that in such a disgusting world the author created a character like Lily, who has never felt loved but is capable of sending love to even the tiniest creatures that are bees.

Whilst I enjoyed Monk Kidd's writing style, I felt that in some places it could have been embellished a little more. Yet this is just personal opinion and the language was appropriate for the overall off beat atmosphere of the novel. The way in which Lily's feelings and thoughts were described seemed to be painted more realistically than much of her physical surroundings, and I was intrigued by this. I felt that it reflected the girl's understanding of the world and her place in it.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Of course a film has now been made based on this book. I highly recommend reading the book first because I think many details were lost in the film. It isn't a bad adaptation though, and as usual Dakota Fanning is a stand out.

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts: 'The problem is they know what matters, but they don't choose it. You know how hard that is Lily? I love May, but it was still so hard to choose Carribbean Pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.'

'A sound rushed up. A perfect hum, high-pitched and swollen, like someone had put the teakettle on and it had come to a boil. 'They're cooling the hives down,' she said...You would have to hear it yourself to believe the perfect pitch, the harmony parts, how the volume rolled up and down. We had our ears pressed to a giant music box.'