Hello! I’ve been gone a long time. A really long time.
I’ve been on a whirlwind journey over the last three years which I will discuss in a later blog but for now, you’ll have to accept this review of The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia and translated by Simon Bruni.
I should probably get into the backstory of why I started this book and why I’ve made it one of my goals for the year to read more translated literature, and if possible more non-english literature.
I’ve started to find things or rather parts of myself that I had locked away, opening back up again. One of these parts is writing and reading – to me they are one thing because to read is to want to write. They are two parts of one whole, for me at least.
When I looked back at every book I had ever read, I came to a worrying conclusion. All of my favourite books were by European, or American, white men. With the exception of one of my favourite authors of all time, Daphne Du Maurier who is a woman (there are also some rumours that she was bisexual).
I was tired of the same stories over and over with the same characters just altered ever so slightly in appearance.
One YouTuber (and author who I love so you should check her out) Francina Simone made a good point when talking about diversity in books: (paraphrasing and writing from memory a bit here but stay with me) the world is not one experience, people exist in a whole spectrum of non-white non-straight experience and to pretend that this spectrum doesn’t exist is to ignore your own culture.
I decided that I would make it my goal to read literature from a variety of authors and make more of an effort to read translated international work because I no longer wanted to read solely European (British I mean) and American style narratives. I wanted to learn about times and events that weren’t part of my country’s own history. I wanted to learn about different cultures and what experiences other people face.
To understand someone else and the struggles that they face is the only way to develop compassion.
Anyways, I should get to this review.
REVIEW: The Murmur of Bees
A lot of people don’t know I have an obsession with bees so when I read the blurb for this novel, I got pretty excited. Bees are fascinating to me and to be able to read about them playing a role in a story was exciting.
I have been learning about Bees pretty solidly for the last few months and it was one of the reasons I typed bees into the Amazon search bar to see what books were out there.
This is one of the first books that came up.
Why? Because it is one of the books published by Amazon Crossing, Amazon’s own publishing house which publishes international translated fiction and according to its website is the “leading publisher of translated books in the US”.
Anyways here is the blurb provided by Amazon:
Blurb: From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution.
From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.
To avoid spoilers, I’m going to keep this review vague and simple.
This novel was very well-written – Segovia did an exceptional job at writing and Bruni did a fantastic job translating this over to English from Spanish.
The style is clear, yet exquisitely detailed. Every paragraph feels like a snippet of time and every tangent was treated with some humour which was refreshing. There were times I found myself getting sucked into a story of something that was not the main plot.
This was the only thing I wouldn’t say I didn’t like but found frustrating at times.
The story twists and turns around different characters but it also seems to get lost down tangents which have no immediate connection to the events you just witnessed a chapter before. This was beautifully done however I think I would have enjoyed this more if I was on vacation and could spend hours pouring over every little story prized into the plot. At home, working, this became incredibly frustrating like someone changing the channel on the TV every time your favourite TV show got to a dramatic standoff.
I just wanted the next bit of conflict to happen and I was left waiting sometimes for two chapters before it returned to the cliffhanger I desperately wanted resolved.
Some of these tangents were pretty eye-opening, particularly for someone who didn’t know much about the Mexican Revolution. Living in the UK, I haven’t been taught about the events that shaped any other country than my own. Learning about the Mexican revolution through this book was really informative and has encouraged me to research it a bit further.
Segovia has created some very stunning characters who have depth and feel so real that I could picture them in any country or any setting. Most characters are people we all know in some way. Nana Reja is a lovely character who reminded me of many old woman I have met in the last three years. Segovia’s ability to transition from one perspective to another, from third to first person between chapters, was brilliant and she was able to convey a variety of perspectives without it feeling forced.
Overall I did like this book and I will probably read it again when I have more time to absorb every story hidden in its pages. For those of us in a rush, or working busy shifts, this may not be the book for you.
I give The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia 4 out of 5 stars because it is enjoyable to read and has well-constructed believable characters but it can be frustrating when the perspective constantly shifts away from the main storyline.
Would read again.