First, apologies: this blog post is long overdue. I attended Caroline Smailes’ Liverpool launch party for Like Bees to Honey way back in May (which brings me to the very strange date I took: more on that later) and have been intending to write a review for months. It was a fantastic experience to hear Caroline read from the book and explain how inspiration was taken from her own family’s stories and culture. So here’s the review:
Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes is a book that will make you cry so be warned. You will especially cry if you have children, have ever lost anyone, have ever followed your heart rather than pleased someone, pleased someone rather than followed your heart or have in fact, ever had a regret or a family rift. This book will speak to you whoever you are.
Nina travels back to Malta with her son Christopher to reconnect with her family and culture but finds an island full of ghosts. This isn’t an ordinary ghost story though. It’s a story about people: their regrets, their mistakes, their injustices, their loves and their truths. It is a story of forgiveness: not only forgiving others, but yourself. It also includes the most original (and witty) portrayal of a (Cisk) beer swilling Jesus I have ever read, as well as beautiful descriptions of Malta and its culture. There is plenty of sadness in this book, but also humour, uplifting moments and wonderfully colourful characters.
If you are a fan of Caroline’s previous books you will be glad to see that her novel presentation of text is used to the full in this book. Lines down the side of the page (visible from the outside of the book) indicate when the ghosts are narrating and different fonts and page breaks are used to great effect. Caroline transports us into the psyche of Nina right down to the sounds and minute details she focuses on as well as the conflict between her two cultures. This is a writer who understands how people think. The story itself unfolds in a subtle way that leaves you sighing ‘ah’.
And now onto my date. Mmmn. Never take a blind date anywhere important with you, especially if you are experimenting with dating a new type (in this case people my friends think are normal). And if the first words you hear out of their mouths are ‘you don’t look anything like the picture I was shown,’ pitch them back onto the train right that moment and send them home. Don’t do what I did and say ‘Neither do you,’ and then take them to a book launch (now both feeling rather shit about yourselves (actually I‘ve lost three stone since that date so a little loss of self esteem may have been worth it)).
I feel I’m probably fairly safe in writing about this as I don’t actually think the gentleman(??) in question actually bothered to learn my name let alone my website address. Anyway, I feel I have let Caroline down a little as while she was signing my book she asked how the date was going. Thinking he was standing close to me I said it was going quite well, thank you. He wasn’t: he’d wandered off somewhere: so sorry Caroline for telling that little fib. (I was however punished for this by having to take a long train journey home with him). Especially as she was so lovely in wishing me a ‘happily ever after’ in my copy of Like Bees to Honey. Don’t worry. I will find my fairy tale ending, but it’s likely to be with my usual type of long haired or bearded eccentrics and bikers because at least they are charming and exciting (although obviously not until I’ve lost the next 1.5 st).