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Sunday, 30 May 2010
Like Bees To Honey
By Caroline Smailes
Those who have read previous novels by Caroline Smailes will know how beautifully she writes, and how well she creates worlds which resonate and chime with all the complexity of reality.
‘Like Bees To Honey’ is no exception, and although it tackles some very difficult subjects and takes the reader to challenging and dark places, this novel has an added ingredient. It has a delicious sense of humour.
Despite the fact that the story has an aching sadness, it also has moments of joy and an ability to make the reader smile in recognition.
The Maltese setting of ‘Like Bees To Honey’ is inspired. Island lore along with its sights, sounds and tastes, form an important part of the novel. Malta is not just a setting - it is a character in its own right.
Language as ever in Caroline Smailes’ work, is important. Words, sounds and repetition are used to increase impact and the Maltese language has a place of honour in the text.
I visited Malta many years ago, but reading this novel I felt like I was back there. The descriptions of locations in Malta, such as the roads of Valletta and the church in Mosta are vivid and textured. When Nina travelled to Sliema with her mother, I could almost feel the swaying of the yellow Maltese bus.
For most of the novel we are in the company of Nina as she deals with feelings of loss, guilt and rejection. But we also meet the stroppy house ghost Tilly, the blessed angel Flavia and an enthusiastically beer-swilling Jesus. More than anything else, it is this cast of characters that gives the novel its unique edge.
This novel is like nothing else I have ever read. The writing is exquisite, the subject matter is daring and original, and the structure is perfectly balanced. Now that I have finished reading it, I long to read it again.
Oh, and it has Simon Cowell in it.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt