How do you grieve for the love of your life, when the love you had was clandestine?
Sarah Crossan’s immaculate Here is the Beehive begins with Ana, a solicitor and a married mother of two, learning of the death of a client. Only Connor was much more than just a client; Ana had been having an illicit love affair with him for three years.
From then on, the story unfolds at a heart-thumping pace, bouncing around through memory to the present and back again as Ana processes her loss. The more she struggles to cope, the closer Ana is drawn to the connection she still has to Connor; his wife Rebecca, for whom Ana goes to extraordinary lengths to help – or so it appears.
The most remarkable thing about this beautiful novel is that it’s written in verse. The simple, fragmented poetry of it perfectly elicits that disjointed, out-of-body feeling of being in a state of major personal upheaval. We feel Ana’s disbelief, her rage, her sense of being in total free-fall as she retraces her steps, clings to memories and tries to navigate a grief made even more devastating by the fact that she can’t talk about it.
Don’t be afraid of the verse thing, I promise. It’s so easy to read and almost left me wondering why we even need all those extra words anyway. (Full sentences – so self-indulgent!) I kid, but I do love the sparsity of the language and the power that the spaces left behind seem to create. It makes me want to read more poetry.
Don’t be afraid of the verse thing, I promise. It’s so easy to read
On her Instagram recently, Sarah Crossan mentioned that some early reviewers weren’t keen to read a book that condoned cheating. I find that a strange viewpoint, because to me, literature isn’t about condoning any set of human behaviours and experiences; it’s about exploring and examining them from different angles.
Funny story though, speaking of free-fall… I clearly see now how heavily our experience of reading is determined by our own personal perspective. When I read this book a few days ago, in my blissful innocence and ignorance, I was so swept up with poor Ana and her grief, I didn’t spare too much of a thought for the wife of her dead lover.
But, lo and behold, the day after reading Here is the Beehive I discovered that I am in fact the gullible casualty of a major betrayal by my partner of five years.
Now my entire perspective has shifted, and as I try to find a new home for myself and my dog during the Armageddon of Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown, you know what? I kind of sympathise with the character of Rebecca now. That said, my own story hasn’t minimised my enjoyment of the book in the slightest – as I said, condoning anything doesn’t factor into it. I might like to read it again with my new outlook, but I might need to leave it a year or so before I can do that.
Sorry if that last part got weirdly heavy. My editor asked me to write the review in a way that incorporated my own feelings and experience. Pretty sure I nailed the brief! (Thanks a lot PRIMER, I feel like you jinxed me a little there). [Ed’s note: Sorry. This was not what I meant!]
But really, I love this book. Sarah Crossan is a truly masterful writer. It doesn’t matter which camp you’re in – the deceived, the deceiver or the ingénue – it’s fascinating, gloriously written and completely unique.
Here Is The Beehive by Sarah Crossan is available now
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