Top positive review
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Being from Malta, this book holds a special place in my heart..
on 12 June 2010
Today, I got Like Bees to Honey in the mail.
Tonight, I finished reading Like Bees to Honey.
I only got it because a publisher friend of mine recommended it on Facebook - and because it was written by an English author, despite being set in Malta. I was not prepared for the story that followed, or for the emotions it evoked in me.
I originally thought this would be a cheap ghost story (for which Malta has the perfect setting, what with the spooky churches and deserted roads), but this is not the case. Nina, the main character, is desperately sad, consumed by a certain loss, that she is seemingly driving herself mad. She feels like she has no reason to live.
And this enables her to see spirits; to speak to them. And whilst Nina is travelling (via rickety yellow bus!) to some of her favourite childhood places in Malta from her parents' home in Valletta, we get to see her explore her grief, explore herself, and explore her roots.
What's most interesting about the book, however, is the way it presents Malta as a dusty haven, filled with lovely smells, traditional values, and strong family ties. For example- anyone who has visited Malta knows that upon landing, you get to see the arrivals lounge, filled with waving families. This scene makes up one of the book's key introductory moments.
The author lets Maltese characters use Maltese words like 'qalbi', 'pupa', and even full sentences throughout the novel. Nina, having lived in England for many years, translates these words and phrases mentally every time they occur, which leads to a very neat way of combining two languages for the reader. This play of tongues is woven into the theme of identity - how far away do you have to be from your family, in order to stop being who you were?
This novel has hit home for me.
For the past five years, I have struggled with having left Malta. I have struggled with keeping my identity, with staying Maltese, with a changing landscape, and with changed personal values. These are all things that are addressed very precisely in the first few chapters of this book. And the way these are presented.. I can only praise the author for her deep understanding of Maltese culture.
I don't normally recommend books - but here's one you should add to your collection.. without hesitation!