Title: The History of Bees
Author: Maja Lunde – Translator: Diane Oatley (from Norwegian)
Genre: Fiction / Dystopian / Literary
First published: 2015 (original Norwegian title: Bienes Historie)
Edition: Hardback, published by Scribner in 2017
England, 1851. 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 honour and fame.
United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper and fights an uphill battle against modern farming, but 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—and is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition—she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.
I picked this novel up once before, but only got 30 pages in. I just could not get into it. I am glad to say that on second try I fared much better and I actually enjoyed what this book did.
We have three point-of-views, all very different, but with common themes: bees (or absence thereof) and offspring lost to the parents in some way. At first I found the vast differences in time and type of main character very jarring, but as I read on I got used to the fact that every chapter was set in a completely different time period than the one before. The chapters of each main character do develop chronologically, which helps.
It was interesting to read about these three different people and how they are connected to said bees. Tao’s point-of-view gives a worrying glimpse into a future without bees and feels very poignant. I liked William’s chapters the least. He just felt like a bit of a wet rag to be honest and I just wanted to give him a big slap and tell him to get on with it! George was probably my favourite character. Somehow I connected most with him and his wife. Of course you know that at some point in the book the plot lines would end up being connected in some way and I loved the way it all came together in the end.
Overall, I thought the writing was beautiful, even if it was a little dry at times.
The subject is so important and close to my heart and I would absolutely recommend this book if the premise sounds interesting to you!
5 out of 7 stars