Book Club #13 – The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

I know I should always write up my book club reports soon after they happen, as it is amazing how much you forget despite me making scribble notes along the way. But I will give it a go, even if it was a few weeks ago!

So the book was The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, the reaction was mixed. We liked it, but we did not. I found it a bit schmaltzy, C was a bit wishy-washy about it, S had to suspend belief and think of it as a fantasy, K liked it but actually thought the film was better, which was a talking point in itself. L liked it and L liked the fact that it took you back in time. W could not get on with it, so did not read very much of it all. The voice of Lily was too disturbing in some ways.

C said it was a real gutsy women orientated novel and that it showed good strong characters, our favourite I think was August who seemed to be the strong one that held everyone else together. August was the main mother figure within the book, certainly and in our opinion the ‘queen bee’. Mothers was a theme through the book and discussion about the loss of Lily’s mother, did she really play a part in her death. Lily was angry and she was going on a journey to find out about herself as well as her mother. The feature of the Black Madonna made for interesting reading and discussion, and thanks to the wonders of technology, I was able to bring up a picture of one depiction for everyone to see. The only person that we could think of that came close to a similar role was that of Mother Teresa in modern times.

Women come together in this novel, just as we had all done to discuss the book and we all agreed that it was important to connect, to be nurtured and loved by others and of course to eat cake and drink wine! But on a more serious note it gave support in many different ways to us and to the characters of the book. It was what Lily seemed to be missing in her life.

The only support she had, was from Roasaleen, and as we all said, you had to keep reminding yourself that this was a white girl and a black woman in the American south of the 1960s. A very controversial and dangerous time, which is why Rosaleen gets herself into trouble in the first place. Lily was an innocent forward thinker in the respect that she had no colour prejudice, she could not see what others were seeing, especially when it came to Zach and she started to experience the first flushes of something that could be recognisied as love. Rosaleen was a character that made us laugh, the way she was determined to see prejudice gone from the world she lived in. Even if she got into trouble along the way and lacked any grace or manners.

Love was missing for Lily, from her father and when he does appear again quite late on in the novel it is a very frightening experience when Lily starts to learn the truth of her mother and her death and how much her father loved her mother and how much of her mother was in Lily. We were unsure if Lily ever saw her father again after the turning point, if she did it was only through guilt and not through love. He was a cold man who was embittered by anger and the memory of his lost wife. He could not love Lily which we decided that was what she wanted.

This was a thought provoking book, which was an easy read, with no twists or turns. It was a book with a journey in it and no particular destination to reach. It flummoxed S who had to suspend the fact that she could not see where it was going and just roll with it. It was just sheer coincidence that Lily happened to stumble across the picture of the Black Madonna on a honey jar, in the same town, where it was produced by the same women her mother might have known! The book is black and white and the film is colour. K intended no pun here, but what she was trying to get across well, as she does,is that it is a much more visual story than perhaps any amount of words can convey. We have all decided now to watch the film, when we go away later in the year and see after a few months since having read it what we all thought.

And so I think this is a fair reflection of what we discussed on the night and we move onto another female orientated book which also is in our history – The Diary of Anne Frank.