12 October 2020

Guest Review: Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan book cover
* Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury Circus *

Today I'm proud to introduce another guest review from Neil BĂ©chervaise. Today he's reviewing Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan.

Blurb

Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it.

But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret.

How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach – Connor's wife Rebecca.

Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.

Neil's Review

Deviation from the standard prose form of the novel is going to ring alarm bells for many readers. Unsurprisingly then, the open form poetic structure, the free verse of Sarah Crossan’s Here is the Beehive creates an initial sense of uncertainty. Her paean to unrequited love, the bitterness of her narrative and her apparent lack of concern with the sketchiness of her characters do little to alleviate this concern. However, expectations based on literary form, character development and pre-determined emotional responses can be misleading. Not all couples live happily ever after.

Crossan’s exploration of the illicit love affair between estate lawyer, Ana, and her married client, Connor, is clearly prejudiced. Connor’s refusal to abandon his family, his accidental death and Ana’s infatuation with the grieving yet apparently unsuspecting widow, Rebecca, suggest an almost psychotic response to her own loss. Yet the responses are all too real. Her lover’s brother is aware of the relationship while her own teacher/husband, Paul, and her friends and colleagues are not. Unsurprisingly, Ana’s three year love affair is leading inevitably towards her own marriage break-up. So what?

Despite his unwillingness to commit, Connor insists to Ana that he loves her. His reluctance to admit this to Rebecca and leave the family behind, however, render Ana increasingly isolated. Returning from one of her many illicit ‘trips away’, she admits to a fellow traveller that she is lonely; her growing despair summarised in her observation, “I had taken many photos to prove I had been somewhere”.

Only too commonly, Christmas brings the story to its unhappy climax. The stoically grieving Rebecca, seeing Ana near Connor’s gravesite can probably put two and two together while the long-suffering Paul finally leaves off his school marking to listen to what may be Ana’s confession.

Sarah Crossan’s tale is too mundane to stand as a prose novel but, with the removal of the inevitable descriptive padding and redundant minor character development, it becomes one woman’s compelling emotional romantic roller coaster.

Ana’s life is not simple, it does not flow smoothly. Her love story is neither linear nor evenly appealing. No-one is to blame more than any other for the predicament she finds herself in. Being torn apart through her own determination, it is her children’s beehive song, probably the most openly loving sequence in the novel, that counts her life down towards that sense of abandonment which festers in the heart of too many marriages.

It takes a little while to recognise that this is not a romantic novel. Instead, it is one woman’s narration of a love story gone wrong. Accepting that realisation, the expectations implicit in reading the typical romantic novel fly away. The prejudices surrounding Ana’s life dissolve and the sparsity, even the unpredictability, of the free form poetry that give this story its power and its appeal become the reason it is so compelling.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.


Neil's Rating:


Would you like to comment?

  1. What a terrific review!
    I love the cover of this one. I'm tempted, I'm just not sure about how I'd go reading a novel done as prose.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Theresa, glad you enjoyed the review and I love the cover design too! If you find the Kindle edition of this book on GoodReads, it has a preview so you can check out the writing style there before you commit to buying or borrowing a copy. Enjoy!

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