Maria knew about guilt. It was a stubborn, pervasive and toxic emotion, and incredibly difficult to shake. Especially if really, deep down, you didn’t think you deserved to let it go.
Maria spends her days tending to the bees of Honeybee Haven and creating wonderful honey products to fund children in need. A former nun, Maria’s life has long been shaped by a shadowy secret and her own self-imposed penance for events in her past. The arrival of two letters, one pink, from nearby Noosa Heads, and one marked with a government crest, herald the shattering of Maria’s peaceful existence.
Before they were married, Tansy made a very serious deal with her husband, Dougall. With their elegant apartment and beachside lifestyle in Noosa, they have everything they agreed they wanted in life, so Tansy is going to ignore the feelings that might suggest she has changed her mind. On top of those not-really-there feelings, Dougall wants to move to Canada!
What I Thought:
At first glance, The Beekeeper’s Secret looks like a cosy romantic novel, end of story. In a lot of ways, it is a contemporary romance novel, but with Maria being the pivotal character, it comes with a bit more depth and a serious message – not to worry though, it is very well done and not a heavy-handed preach!
I love Australian fiction – I’m not sure why I should like it more than any other type of fiction – perhaps it’s the tremendous scope for a setting (from mountain to beach to urban sprawl), or maybe something more in the laid-back Australian attitude to things…who knows, but this book is a great example of Aussie fiction and I’d recommend it.
As I’ve said, among the familial drama in the book, there is a serious issue surrounding improprieties within the Catholic Church, which is always difficult to imagine, but those sections, and the revelation of Maria’s secret are written well and very sympathetically – this is an author with affection for her leading character.
The passages that I most enjoyed were those describing Maria’s care of her bees and her quiet work at the Honeybee Haven. It’s clear that, although she has left the church, her vows remain with her and she is living a Nun’s life in the outside world. I really took to her as a character.
I did find myself caring a little less about Maria’s niece, Tansy, and her situation, but ultimately, the two generations of family played well off each other and the book was a well-rounded contemporary novel.
The Beekeeper’s Secret is published by Allen & Unwin.
Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.