The History of Bees

Maja Lunde
(Translated by Diane Oatley)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m always rather dubious of translated books, but this story has flowed seamlessly from the original Norwegian text, published in 2015, into this English version. It follows the lives of three people, spread over a period of 250 years. The accounts are intermingled, but instead being jarring that this method often causes, the tales mix and build with every page.

In Victorian England, William is beset by a crushing depression caused by his perceived failure as a natural scientist. Concerned more with making a name for himself and his son than anything else, he embarks on a quest to build the perfect beehive.

An American honey farmer, George’s tale is set in 2007, when he first begins to experience the effect of Colony Collapse Disorder in his bees. The family farm is barely surviving, but he is determined that his son follow in his footsteps, regardless of what his son wishes to be. 

Tao’s arc is set in 2098 China, long after bees have become extinct. Pollination of crops is done painstakingly by hand with a feather brush, resulting in less variety and less output. Humanity has taken a downturn, and the loss of the bees has caused worldwide ecosystems to crash from the bottom up. None of this matters to Tao when an accident causes her son to be taken from her, and her only concern is finding him and getting him back. 

My decision to read this story was based purely on the title, having become increasingly interested in bees over the last couple of years. Bees are what link the three stories together, but the book is concerned just as much with the human relationships as it is with the fate of the bees. It was slow to get going, but soon picked up, and I’m thoroughly glad that I chose to read it.

I received an ARC in return for an honest review.

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