Wednesday, 13 February 2013

March 2011 - The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

This book was received well by all of our members, even those who scored it fairly low, found it an easy, very sweet book to read (it just wasn't their cup of tea).

The story focuses on the black history of Americas South Carolina in the 1960's and brings us into the brutal world of Rosaleen, the brave woman who works for a white man and his daughter. As well as focusing on the reality of racism, the story also focuses on Lily, the 14 year old girl, who blames herself for her mothers death when she was only four.

Since the death of her mother, Lily has not felt loved, her father forcing her to work on the stall selling peaches, and blaming her for everything that goes wrong, when he punishes her, he forces her to kneel on salts until her knees bleed, the closest thing Lily has to a mother is Rosaleen.

In the 1960's many of Americas black population, were uprising against the segregation, hoping to be able to cast their votes, the will power of Rosaleen and her fight to be able to vote started the story off. Rosaleen gets arrested and injured after defending herself against racists and whilst in hospital, Lily manages to break her out of police custody and they both go on the run. The group found this all a little too easy, a black fugitive and a young, white girl, somehow managing to avoid the law.

All throughout the book, there are several references to bees (hence the title), and when Lily and Rosaleen stumble across a town, with a familiar looking jar of honey, they ask the shopkeep who makes it and they find their way into the house of August and her two sisters. The group also found this happened too quickly, they never encountered any issues, and considering they were running from the law, we felt they didn't travel very far at all.

The three black sisters, took the two in, fed them, gave them a place to sleep and gave them work to do, most importantly August soon became the mother figure that Lily longed for.

Generally though, the plot wasn't very believable, and our members found the references to the bees at the start of each chapter the most captivating parts of the book. The characters were relatively convincing, there was a good variation, but we found that T-Ray the father, although not featured very much, was the most real. The relationship between Lily and August was extremely convincing, but we would have liked to have seen a bit more from a few other characters.

The middle section of the book was quite drawn out, with a lot of religious references, which is where I feel the book lost marks from a few members, the book could have been shorter. 

The writing style was beautiful, sweet and with several poetic elements throughout, and most of our members would read something by Sue Monk Kidd again.

The ending pretty much summed up what we all thought was going to happen, a few of us disagreed on who we thought had shot the mother, and why the father was as angry as he was but we all felt it finished the book off nicely, and gave closure. The only other thing we would have liked to have seen develop by the end, was Lilys romance with Zach.

We had 14 people vote on this one, and we have an average score on 6/10. Top mark being 8 and lowest being 4. 

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