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4.1 out of 5 stars
Of Bees and Mist
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 August 2009
Erick Setiawan's debut novel is a fabulous creation - an intense family melodrama set within a dark gothic fantasy world. Within this magical world Meridia's life experience has been shaped by the deep rift that has always lain between her father and mother - a rift expressed in the coldness emanating from the house around them, dark mists that lap at the door to whisk her father off to his mistress, the vengeful ghost of his mother's bitterness and anger battering at the door and appearing in the mirrors of the house.

Then, at a fairground of wonderful sideshows and spiritualists offering their services, Meridia meets Daniel and the dark world she has known is transformed into something lighter and more magical. However, as she and Daniel overcome the obstacles to start their life together, Meridia finds the ominous mists of her youth replaced by an even more menacing threat - the bees spewed out by her mother-in-law, Eva.

At heart, Of Bees and Mist is a big family melodrama of dark family secrets and disputes, but the bitterness is so deep and violent that it has to be expressed in terms of a magic realism that owes as much to Tim Burton as it does to Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Setiawan keeps the drama grounded in the reality of human behaviour and interaction, expressing with minute detail and observation every nuance of emotion, conflict and love, but converting it into magical terms of dark portentous omens and precious objects. In so doing he creates in Eva one of the most monstrous and unforgettable characters ever seen in literature - truly the Mother-in-Law from Hell - in a distinctive and utterly enthralling first novel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 3 October 2009
I think this is one of the most peculiar books I have ever read, it is far from the sort of novel I would usually pick up but I fancied something different, it was certainly that!
It is set in a bizarre world of strange mists, shifting and lengthening staircases, a strange market with a woman who grows herbs from her own body and a man who swallows whole radishes and spits them out chopped. It is supposedly in present day but there's no indication of this, no mention of cars or technology or any modern day devices. I found it all pretty weird when I first started reading and after a couple of chapters decided it wasn't for me.
However, I persevered a little further and suddenly it began to hold my interest. Once we see Eva, the wicked mother in law, in her true colours the book begins to take shape. She is a fantastically devised character, utterly evil, and the story is basically the tale of her battle with the heroine, Meridia.
Although set in this weird weird world, mostly the characters are pretty human, although they do have some peculiarities and seemingly magical qualities. I wouldn't say it was really my kind of book but it was interesting enough and certainly original, I have never read anything like it before.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2012
To help someone thinking about buying this book (and to link with some other reviews) the first thing to say is the book is in the magic realism genre - mixing fantasy/magic naturally alongside everyday life. Once you start from that point, the wonders of the strange psychic fair, the bees, the mists, the ghosts in the mirror all make sense. My thoughts were 'Coraline' - but for grown-ups - very much sprang to mind when reading it.

The story revolves around the life of Meridia beginning with her childhood, progressing through her courtship and subsequent marriage into her adult life. The magic realism is woven around all the different characters and difficult relationships she encounters and that we can all relate to in life: Eva, the most evil and controlling mother-in-law you could possibly imagine (and what better way to describe those plagued by such people as to be tortured by constantly humming, stinging bees); Meridia's relationship with her parents - her mother loving and affectionate one moment then dissolving into a manic individual who clatters around her kitchen speaking an unfathomable language the next; her father - cold and distant, who regularly disappears and appears from the mists. The later relationship with her husband and sisters-in-law are beautifully laid out and shows how even the strongest individuals can be worn down by the constant picking from controlling, evil individuals (*the Bees have become a wonderful analogy to me of what these people do in life, and therefore how hard it is for their victims to stand up against them long-term!). The book also covers much darker abuses in life and the magic realism gives a wonderful vehicle to describe the people who inflict them.

This is a gothic melodrama where the tale is beautifully interwoven with magic. My only criticism would be that as all the beautifully laid out threads gradually came together for the climatic ending, the final piece was a bit 'Oh. Ok then'.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2010
This book was in my Amazon recommendations, it looked interesting and thought I'd give it a go. I must admit, I found it very odd and to be perfectly frank I was very close to throwing the book aside. The mist, the bees, the strangeness of everything. But I perservered and suddenly I realised that I was completely and utterly sucked in. I read a lot of books, but being a Mum of three little children, my reading time is very limited. I literally could not put this book down. I loved and believed all the characters. I found myself actually crying sometimes!! There were on occasions that I had to check that this was a male author, considering his understanding of a womens' psyche, particularly after having a baby! It's been a long time since I've been so hooked. Even whilst I was making dinner I had the book propped up for me to read. I have been completely distracted. Thankfully, although sadly I have now finished it this morning. I can now turn my attention back to my family!!! When putting it down I stated to my one year old, "OK Matthew! Mummys back!!" It was a wonderful book. I usually buy books on Amazon and then sell them on, but this one will be staying on my shelf. A book all about magic, and boy, it really worked it's magic on me!!!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to admit that when I first started this book I was very dubious about it. It starts out sounding like some awful, twee fairytale. Rather weirdly, it turns out to be so, so much more than that. Filled with characters with names like 'Meridia' (this is why I was initially put off), Of Bees and Mist is actually a deeply touching, funny and moving novel.

It is certainly not just a fairytale, although it plays with that format, and it is certainly not just one for the girls. Although it is lightly written with a deft touch, it's a book with a lot of depth too. Highly recommended - my favourite surprise novel of this year!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2011
I do like quirky books so this sounded right up my street. It should be right up my street - its full of magic and mysticism. This book, however, irritated me. There isn't any one character that is particularly charming and the 'evil' characters keep the 'good' characters so downtrodden and miserable that it seems to drag on for infinity. I could start reading this book in a really good mood and feel quite depressed after one chapter. The misery could be balanced out by humour, which is sadly lacking. Neither did I really understand where the Bees and the Mist came from as metaphors but, perhaps, one is not meant to question that too closely and accept the concepts the author portrays.

There is more than a nodding acquaintance with Cinderella and I have recently read another book similarly themed by Gregory Maguire - Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, which was done far better than this attempt. So far as turning fairytale lore into adult novels goes - I would like to see someone attempt it with something other than Cinderella please.

Despite it living up to its promise of being full of fairytale lore and magic, it really is one to avoid if you are looking for an uplifting read or originality.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 March 2011
I was drawn in by the book title, the cover and the 5 star review by 'Gabrielle O'-I had heard nothing about the book until it popped up in the 'People who bought what you have just bought also bought...' page on Amazon.
I was totally hooked from the first page and have read it at every possible opportunity. It not once bored me as it was so imaginative and inventive that it kept you marvelling at the fantastical world the fantastic characters lived in.
It was purely a magical joy to read and despite it being magical and set in an other worldly place the relationships between and the characteristics of the characters were so realistic. The book astounded me and I cannot wait to read more from this author. When I read the last line on the last page I let out an audible gasp of disappointment as I turned the page as I thought it carried on. The ending was fantastic but I would have loved to have settled down for another 405 pages. I have recommended this to everyone I know.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is absolutely delicious. In common with other 'magical realism' novels (Allende, Marquez) it is rich in sensory delights. Smells, both divine and disgusting, waft through the pages; there are descriptions of feasts, foodstuffs and cooking; colours, textures and symphonies of sounds, from ghostly whispers to enraged bees.

This is a first novel, and I'm amazed and awed by Setiawan's assurance and imagination. It is set in an unidentified time and place - although references to foods such as red bean paste do hint at the Orient, as does some of the medicine, with acupuncturists attending a birth and herbal, rather than synthesised medicinals, Setiawan has constructed his own perfectly sensible bizarre world, where references to arcane and traditional practices, hinting at a Medieval setting, sit happily alongside women running businesses and being potential candidates for university and buildings made of glass and steel, not to mention a place called Cinema Garden! This hotchpotch works perfectly. The strange and magical world, where coloured mists signal and yet cloak adultery, where people bloom with ice crystals or become transparent, soon seems perfectly sensible and expected.

The bizarre and often gothic characters reminded me of Mervyn Peake's 'Gormenghast', and also of Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' though Setiawan lacks quite the sombre bleakness of Peake's trilogy, and the philosophical concepts of Pullman's.

The only reason I couldn't quite go to the 5th star is because the ending, though perfect, took a little too long to arrive. I was fairly certain that this story of terrible and wonderful relationships. over a couple of generations, would end the way it ultimately did, but some of the events leading up to that ending were either a little too many, or a little too long in the unfolding. I won't say more in case of spoilage!

All in all, I think a pretty enchanting read, especially if any or all of the 4 authors I've named also delight you
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 17 December 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
They say to write what you know and, if that is true then Erick Setiawan must have real mother-in-law issues. Eva, the mother-in-law or Meridia, the central character in Of Bees and Mist is truly one of the most evil characters I have ever read!

Of Bees and Mist is a tale of the marriage of Meridia and Daniel and of the intreraction of their two families and its effect on them. Surrounding this tale, which could take place in any time and place, are faint whisperings of a magical world where ghosts appear in mirrors, different coloured mists appear and whisk people away and the physical manifestation of verbal and mental cruelty as thousands of bees - the Bees and Mists of the title. This adds a certain "quaintness" and mystery to the tale that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

It has been suggested that this is more a book that women would enjoy and, although I can see the reasons for that, I think that it could be enjoyed by everyone. I enjoyed it and my only criticism is that some of the characterisation is a bit one-dimensional. The main characters of Eva and Meridia are well fleshed out and I was hating and sympathising with them respectively. However, some of the surrounding characters came across, to me, as a bit flat. Daniel, Meridia's husband, especially so for a character that was a part of the main group. This may have been intentional to show how much of his character had been drained by his overbearing mother, I don't know. Aside from that, I liked it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Meridia is a young girl when she meets Daniel, the man who will sweep her off her feet. What follows is nothing short of a fairy tale. And, just like in all good fairy tales, there is struggle, heartache, and redemption.

Meridia uncovers secrets in her family as well as Daniel's. Spells, charms, witchcraft, demons, prophets, and clairvoyants are an everyday reality in Meridia's world. Colorful mists whisk her father away, and her mother's cooking can heal almost anything that ails you. Her mother-in-law also possesses strange powers; her vindictive, evil ways manifest themselves into a swarm of bees that attempt to pull Meridia and Daniel apart.

Meridia must use all of her strength to keep her family together, and mend the broken parts of their lives.

I was truly amazed by this novel. I am constantly drawn to fairy tales, and though this novel reads like one, none of the content seemed far-fetched. Erick Setiawan was able to create a world where the unbelievable seemed completely possible. It was easy to get lost in the story because of that.

At the heart of this tale are three women - Meridia, Ravenna, and Eva, and how their relationships color their world. It is also about strength and the true meaning of love. It is beautifully told, and a joy to read. A fairy tale for the modern era - brilliant!

Reviewed by: LadyJay
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