Review Blog

Mar 04 2016

Hour of the bees by Lindsay Eagar

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Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781406368154
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Themes: Identity; Memory; Family and memory loss; Death and dying; Relationships. Carol (short for Carolina) is about to enter Junior High School in New Mexico, USA. Her life is sent into a spin at the start of her summer holidays with the news that they are to spend the entire break at the desert ranch belonging to her grandfather (with rattlesnakes and dust and heat). This is not just a family holiday, it is her family's responsibility to prepare the house and sheep ranch for her grandfather's move into a secure retirement home. Her grandfather Serge (Sergio) is struggling with illness and advancing dementia, and his ebb and flow as a reliable independent farmer and teller of tales of his past is deeply connected to the desert-like drought affected landscape. Into this environment, with its harsh reality, Carol reluctantly connects to her history and her roots. The grumpy Serge, and the stories he tells of his past is woven together with an almost mystical story of a tree that has powers of restoration. Bees that are bearers of hope of the breaking of the drought also appear in the stories and into Carol's environment. She changes from a reluctant child forced to spend a busy holiday 'working' to unpack a life's possessions, to a mature keeper of memories of the past and an advocate for her dying grandfather. Her view of the family home of her father changes to respect, and affects her choices in life-altering ways and changes her view of her identity.
Although Carol is the principal character of this story, her blended family and their quirks and interactions are also important. Their actions and reactions speak of love, but also the way that families sometimes can sometimes 'rub each other up the wrong way'. Love is not always easy, and Serge's stories reveal this too. The Central narrative is woven together with Serge's 'memory mystical stories' and consequently there is a quality of the unbelievable about some aspects of the tale. This is woven together with the influence of the Mexican background of the family. (For Australian readers, the environment of New Mexico is not unlike our Outback experience.)
Recommended for Aged 12+
Carolyn Hull

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