Lindsay Eager, Hour of the Bees, Walker Books, 1 March 2016, 368pp., $16.99, (pbk), ISBN: 9781406368154
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager is a complicated and lengthy read. While on the surface it deals with a family packing up grandfather to move him to a care home, it’s also a fable of sorts, commenting on climate change and the need for humanity to remember kindness and humility when it’s all too easy to get caught up with busy superficial living.
Main character Carolina is disgruntled with her upcoming summer. Forced to leave her friends and home to move to the middle of nowhere in the Arizona desert, she feels put-upon and outnumbered. But as she starts to spend more time with her Grandpa Serge, she finds herself getting lost in his stories, then consumed with the desire to help him retain any memories he can – the scourge of dementia has him firmly in its sights. Her character is clear – she’s generous, open-minded, and ready to embrace her heritage.
There’s a magical side to the stories Serge shares, and whether readers accept this element will depend on their connection to Carolina. The climax is tense and exhilarating, and Carolina’s own growth and realisation of her worth is bound up in the past and how it resonates now and into the future. While Carolina is only 12, and her anxieties are identifiable for middle aged readers; the language, the atmosphere, and the magic realism demands a sophisticated reader, one who will appreciate description and detail.
Reviewed by Trisha Buckley