In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, this dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees, to their children, and to one another against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.
England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant who sets out to build a new type of beehive, one that will give both him and his children honor and fame.
United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but he hopes that his son can be their salvation.
China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.
Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought-provoking story that is just as much about the powerful bond between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.
In The History of Bees, the reader gets to experience a chronicle of bees throughout time: past, present (ish) and future. I found this to be an absolutely fabulous idea for a novel, but for it to really work the writing has to be on point. If one just wants to read an encyclopedia of bees, there are others options. To make this book interesting, the author has to be able to encompass the information presented with well-written stories to make the reader want to keep going. And author Maja Lunde has done just that.
The three stories are each enthralling in their own ways. They are touching accounts of family and love and heartache and pain. Oh, and bees. Yes, each timeline is also an account of an important event in bee history. If that is what you came for, there is plenty of that. It is clear a lot of research went into the writing of this book. I know more about bee houses, honey-making, pollination, and bee colonies and reproduction than I ever thought I would.
If you are just looking for fabulous stories to strum your heart strings and could care less about bees, this book reads that way, too. While the message about the importance of bees is very clear, it is a backdrop for stories and characters that are easy to connect with. A father trying to secure a legacy for his children. A family struggling with the complexities of modern farming. A mother searching for a lost child. Each one is written so well it could be a story all its own, except it is not. They are all connected in some way, and there are a few twists along the way that keep the intrigue level high.
I absolutely loved read The History of Bees. A nerd at heart, I enjoyed learning about bees. At the same time, the people stories were great, too. That dichotomy was the best thing about this book: the way bees and people kind of mirror each other. I recommend this book for fans of historical fiction, and literary fiction, as well, as there are elements of both genres. And, of course, all nerds across the world that want to learn about bees.