Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily lives on a farm in South Carolina with her father T Ray and Rosaleen. Rosaleen has been looking after Lily since her mother died ten years ago. Convinced she is responsible for her mother's death and an outcast in her small community Lily leads a lonely life. Then Rosaleen is attacked on her way to register to vote. Rosaleen is black and so she is arrested rather than her attackers. Lily helps Rosaleen escape and they become fugitives. On the run with no where to go they stumble across a brightly painted pink house and three sisters who tend bees. So begins a summer of discovery for Lily who must come to terms with her past and her present to be able to decide on her future.

This book is very much a 'coming of age story'. Set in the deep south of America in 1964, the year Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act the key theme of this book is racism. Lily is in some ways quite naive about the racial hatred towards the black community. She is surprised by the attack on Rosaleen and has no idea her life might be in danger until her father tells her this when taking her home after being arrested with Rosaleen. Yet by the end of the book you're desperately wishing Lily's acceptance of the black people around her could be adopted by the white community as a whole. At one point a police officer visits the pink house and suggests that Lily shouldn't be lowering herself by staying there and I really just wanted to slap him one! Living in the modern world where such blatant racism is considered unusual and highly disgusting rather than the norm it is hard to really understand the vast majority of the white characters in the book. You sympathise with Lily and the black characters of this book.

The book is very easy to read, and very straightforward. I must admit that I wasn't expecting the twist at the end of the book and I applaud the author for not falling into the trap of making the ending 100% uplifting. I won't say more than that for fear of giving it all away! This book was also a very quick read, I started about 10:30pm last night and was finished by 1am. Although I couldn't put it down because I wanted to see what would happen it didn't grab me in the way that 'The Book of Lost Things' or 'The Kabul Beauty School' did. I can't decide if it was because I felt parts of this story were a little too 'convenient' and had a 'been done before' flavour. The book reminds me of 'How to Make an American Quilt', the 'Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. It's got elements from each in it. It was a good read and I did enjoy it but it was very much a light read for me.

*3 stars*

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