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The Boy Who Taught The Beekeeper To Read: and Other Stories [Hardcover]

Susan Hill
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 10.46 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 July 2003
The boy in The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read knows the language of books - he can read and write; the beekeeper is illiterate - but he knows the arcane names for the special tools of his trade. It's a fair exchange: the boy teaches him how to spell his name; and he teaches the boy the mysterious skills of working daily with his hands- The unspoken understanding of a gift exchanged, the death of a mother, the bonds of loyalty between sisters who will never 'tell' - Susan Hill's prose is so beautiful it can break your heart. She writes cracking dialogue, and has a unique sense of place, be it the English seaside or a seedy Russian hotel.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 edition (3 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701175966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841976587
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 18.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 927,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Hill is a prize-winning novelist, having been awarded the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham and John Llewelyn Rhys awards, as well as having been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She wrote Mrs de Winter, the bestselling sequel to Rebecca, and the ghost story The Woman in Black, which was adapted for the stage and became a great success in the West End. Her books include a collection of exquisite short stories, The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read, and the highly successful crime novel series about the detective Simon Serrailler. Susan Hill lives in Gloucestershire, where she runs her own small publishing firm, Long Barn Books.

Product Description


'The Service of Clouds contains echoes of Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse... Hill is rare among contemporary writers...a meticulous, down-to-earth and strangely beautiful novel.' The Times 'Skilfully structured, seamlessly blending past and present...Hill's lean, sharp prose and consistently detached tone create a severe and rather beautiful book...that flows silkily off the page.' Independent

Book Description

An exciting event: a new collection of short stories by Susan Hill - elegant, poetic, intelligent and brave.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning 24 July 2003
By Sally Zigmond VINE VOICE
Many people think short stories are easy to write which is why there are so many indifferent ones around. Others believe than no short story can pack the punch of a novel. This book of nine beautifully crafted examples belies such thinking. The writing is spare but humanity within is rich. Susan Hill's characters are ordinary, unremarkable people but cannot easily be forgotten. A young girl from a circus family shares her sense of loss with a man she despises and through it they come to an understanding. A young boy performs what he sees as the most wicked crime in the world only for it to pass unnoticed and unpunished. Two daughters watch as for once in her life,their mother performs one act of simple kindness, whilst another pair of sisters think they love their father but fail to understand what love really is.
An air of melancholy pervades these stories but they are not depressing. The simple beauty of the writing and the truths they convey lift the spirits rather like a string quartet in the minor key.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Losers, loners and misfits 17 Mar 2004
Like many Susan Hill fans, her bleak and devastatingly heartfelt writing was forced upon me at school. For me though, it wasn't her Somerset Maughan Award-winning novel, I'm the King of the Castle or her chilling ghost story, then long-standing West End play, The Woman in Black. It was a quiet collection of short stories, written in 1973, called A Bit of Singing and Dancing. Despite my reluctance to reading a series of tales about stiff upper-lipped middle-aged and elderly characters I believed I would have nothing in common with, I was instantly lured into the tormented lives of these losers, loners, and misfits, and impassioned by the harsh purity of the stories.
Now, having taken in the highs of Hill's The Woman in Black and The Mist in the Mirror, and the lows of the frankly dull, The Service of Clouds and Mrs de Winter (her ill-advised sequel to du Maurier's Rebecca) I feel that we have come full circle, with The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read, another small selection of short stories about loners, losers, and misfits.
Of the nine tales in this collection there are Hill's tried and tested themes of bereavement, loneliness, disfigurement and the lurch between childhood and adulthood, are played out against the backdrop of remote rural communities, bleak unnamed towns, or off-season seaside resorts. Father, Father is about two adult sisters trying to come to terms with their father's new companion after their mother's death. Sand is about a random act of kindness that a girl's brutal mother carries out for a stranger. In The Punishment two young boys try to think of the most dreadful crime, only for no one to notice when they finally carry it out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good beginning and end 12 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I expected much after reading the title story, which is poignant and interesting, but was disappointed by the rather samey themes of subsequent stories. Thereafter, tyrannical mother figures abounded, cruel losses and nasty life lessons repeated like a badly warmed potato.
The style was highly reminiscent of William Trevor, whom I generally find bleak and somewhat unpleasant. There was even a blind piano tuner trapped in a miserable relationship, except he was a blind storeman in Hill's version.
On the whole, Hill is more delicate than Trevor who seems to revel in life's petty cruelties.
The last story is Chekovian as the first
'Antonyin's.': An Englishman is happily entombed in a cold Eastern European peasant-zone and becomes entrapped by an ugly and boring woman determined that he should marry her.
My only question was- why does Hill keep saying he is happy in the first place? Despite boils, indigestion and turnip-smells? His female pursuer seems like an animated turnip herself, a Breughelesque manifestation of the freezing landscape and the revolting food she cooks.
Anyway, no spoilers, it has an interesting denoument.( No, he doesn't make mad passionate mashed turnip with her).
On the whole, this collection is worth reading, but lacks a defined style or voice, all the voices seem borrowed.
But isn't this Hill's forte?
She can out-19th Century Wilkie Collins and Henry James.....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Great Short Tales, Some Not So 28 Mar 2012
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
If I were to go with an overall theme of `The Boy Who Taught The Beekeeper to Read' it would be death and loss. This therefore gives the whole book a rather melancholic tone. It's not a gloomy collection but it's not all singing and dancing (yes, that's a nod to her 1974 collection of short stories I have in Mount TBR). What we have is therefore a collection of tales at often pivotal, and emotional points in characters lives, their current situation or circumstances having been caused, in the main, being through deaths to varying degrees.

Because I started with `Father, Father' and `Sand' I think I was a little wrong footed from the off if I am honest. Both these stories of of mothers deaths and the effect on the daughter and unfortunately felt like the same story only one had been elongated. Therefore when I read `Elizabeth' which once more brought up mothers and daughters I put the book down for a while. I am glad I returned though as after this hiccup, mainly my fault for reading in the wrong order I am sure, the stories became more varied and I started to get sucked into the atmosphere and tone of the book further.

You see the tales `The Punishment', `The Brooch` and `Moving Messages' reminded me that Susan Hills writing has a certain quiet brooding about it, this is also the case in both her Simon Serrailer crime series and famous ghost stories yet because they are longer there is a meatier side too, and sometimes with these short stories this is done so delicately that initially you think `and?' but should you take some time out and have some space from them and the characters, atmospheres and settings they grow on you somewhat. `Need' with its circus setting did this particularly well.
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