The Secret Life of Bees

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Quite honestly one of my favourite books I’ve read all year!

Lily has always had a huge hole in her heart – one that only a mother’s love can fill.

Believing that she accidentally killed her mother when she was four has been a heavy burden to carry.

But ten years on, Lily wants answers.

And when racial tensions explode one summer afternoon in 1964 – she may just have found the chance to chase them. But is she ready to hear the truth…

The Secret Life of Bees is the number one bestseller by American author Sue Monk Kidd and was her first work of fiction.

The novel spent more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into 36 languages. A total of eight million copies have now been sold worldwide.

Monk, who grew up in Sylvester, Georgia, has published a total of eight books since 1988 – including a collaborative memoirs with her daughter (Ann Kidd Taylor) and a collection of her early writing.

A film adaption of The Secret Life of Bees was released in 2008 starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah.

In January 2009, the film won the awards for “Favourite Movie Drama” and “Favourite Independent Movie” at the 35th People’s Choice Awards.

In 2006, a television film adaption was also released of her book, The Mermaid Chair, starring Kim Basinger. Her latest novel, The Invention of Wings, was published in 2014.

Monk currently lives in southwest Florida with her husband and their dog, Barney.

Set across the summer of 1964 in South Carolina, The Secret Life of Bees plays out against the fallout of President Johnson’s Civil Rights Act.

The novel is told through the first person narrative of the main protagonist, 14-year-old Lily Owens.

When Lily’s only friend and surrogate mother Rosaleen is attacked and arrested on her way to register to vote; both become fugitives of the law.

With no where to run and even less options, Lily leads them on a quest using a clue from her mother’s past – a wooden carving of a black Mary with “Tiburon, S.C.” written on the back.

But where it’ll lead them, even Lily cannot predict.

From the moment I started reading this novel – Lily had grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Her narrative voice was simple, frank and immensely entertaining.

As a character, Lily is designed to be deeply flawed and it is her transition throughout the novel that consumes a large piece of the plot.

Personally, I really liked Lily as a character. You won’t agree with every decision she makes but her heart is always in the right place and her self doubt and criticisms are easily relatable.

She was certainly the main selling point of novel for me, a wonderfully plain-speaking USP!

Whilst there aren’t actually that many characters in the story, each one is expertly crafted and well-fitting.

No one in the novel could be accused of being short on character – from the vivacious Daughters of Mary to the stubborn June and abusive T. Ray.

The story line is also excellent and whilst I had a few things figured out from the start – there are a couple of curve balls in there I certainly didn’t see coming.

Put simply, it’s a very satisfying novel to read and enjoy. If I hadn’t known this was a debut novel, I never would have guessed because it’s so well written.

First published in the UK in 2002, The Secret Life of Bees is available in paperback from Tinder Press – retailing at £8.99.

The novel, published by Penguin Books in the US, also retails for $14.00 or in Canada for $21.00.

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