The Murmur of Bees
THE MURMUR OF BEES is beautifully written but puzzlingly slow. Based on the publisher’s hype, I expected something plot-driven. As exquisite as this book is, it is not that.
The official blurb describes an infant who is found under a bridge, deformed and abandoned, covered by a blanket of bees. This child has the ability to see the future and thereby save good people from illness, political scourge, and personal ruin. And there are good people in this book. We know, because we’re taken deep into the minds of many of them, as well as into the minds of an evil one or two. Characterization is one of the book’s strong suits.
Another strong suit? The historical elements, including the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, the Mexican revolution and its agrarian land reform, which summarily stripped wealthy landowners of their property. This is all written with breathtaking detail and color – and the writing is, I believe, the very greatest strength of the book.
There’s just too much of it. The story of the child and his bees gets lost in minute descriptions of characters, places, and events. If you read this book for a window on Mexican history, culture, and people at that time, it’s a five-star winner. I simply wanted to know more about the boy.
THE MURMUR OF BEES is great historical fiction. But I would recommend reading it, rather than listening. As fitting as the two narrators’ voices are to the prose, their presentation adds pensive to slow.