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on 6 October 2016
I raced through this. It's emotive, engaging and well written. Often funny, often sad: a lovely book.

The plot is interesting and well-paced. The characters are complex and thoughtful towards each other - Lily is surrounded by a great group of (mainly) women.

Set in the 60s in the Deep South, the cultural racism clashes against the movement towards equal rights (the right to vote, mixed schools), and this element of the story combined well with Lily's personal story.

It seemed a much quicker read than "The Invention of Wings". I think that one is more powerful and its story will stay in my head for longer - probably because it's based on true people; this is a lighter novel but just as lovely to read.
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on 10 October 2016
Beeeutiful. It has nothing to do with bees and everything. This is perfectly written narrative of a young woman's journey. Yes there is a geographic journey and there is a political journey, but mainly there is a personal and emotional and growing-up journey. Nothing happens. There is no car chase or anything exciting, though there is a past shooting a few beatings, several arrests and a suicide to contend with. The key is the writing, the plain understanding and beautiful language that makes this so great.

This is set just as the US was legally, if not socially - in the South at least - adopting the civil rights legislation of Martin Luther King's protests. But it is not a polemic. I happened to finish reading this on the 80th anniversary of the UK's Battle of Cable Street, and this is a such a simple reminder of what people are still fighting for. Here's one snippet, of a white girl comparing herself with a black woman who was yet to be her friend:

"As I squatted on the grass at the edge of the woods, the pee felt hot between my legs. I watched it puddle in the dirt, the smell of it rising into the night. There was no difference between my piss and June’s. That’s what I thought when I looked at the dark circle on the ground. Piss was piss." from "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd
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on 16 February 2018
The Secret Life of Bees begins in the summer of 1964 with Lily, 14, and her dad T.Ray in South Carolina. Her mum had died when Lily was a very young child and ever since Lily has had a troublesome childhood. She never felt like she belonged anywhere, and her dad seemed particularly cruel and unloving. Her only glimpse of caring came from Rosaleen, the woman T.Ray took from working in the orchard to help around the house.

In a world where black people were considered lower class citizens, Rosaleen did not have the best life growing up either. Together, Lily and Rosaleen navigate through the challenges of being a black woman in a white man’s world, whilst also dealing with Lily’s emotional scars of losing a mother. Although the president signed the Civil Rights Act and allowed black people to vote, there was not an immediate shift of public opinion. Lily is forced to grow up quickly when she is exposed to the truth of racism in the southern states.

The pair end up on a journey to a different kind of world when they meet August and her sisters making honey in the big pink house. Lily works to resolve her conflicting feelings for her mother and the day she died, and looks to find a place where she truly belongs.

Sue Monk Kidd focuses on the stories we all know about racism and the fight for equality. Her female characters show strength and determination in the face of adversity. The story feels so familiar at times but still catches your breath as it sweeps you from one emotion to another.

The Secret Life of Bees fills you with haunting images followed by a hope for a better future. It balances grief with love, despair with belief, and betrayal with loyalty. Although religious themes are explored, they only serve to enhance the characters rather than getting too involved. The process of beekeeping adds another dimension and pulls the characters together.
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on 29 September 2017
I absolutely LOVED this book. It was, in my opinion, very well written with an interesting and unique story line. I could not wait to finish it and yet I didn't want it to end. An ageless tale of oppression, racism and intolerance - the book draws you in to the lives of the characters, and you find yourself wanting to know more and more about them, how they got to where they are and why. The connection between the characters evolves slowly, and though kind of inevitable, is the outcome I wished for. The storyline of the love between the young white girl, Lily and her black housemaid Rosaleen is wonderfully and sensitively told, as is the whole micro world of the pink bee house where the sisters live. I felt fulfilled and saddened when I had finished this book. I highly recommend it
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 November 2015
This is a coming of age story set back in the 1960's. It is a time of change, the Civil Rights Act has just been made law and it isn't going down well in the deep south. Lily is 14 and living with her abusive father. Her mother died tragically when Lily was only four, she only remembers sketchy parts of the accident, although it is never talked about with her father. When events get out of control in town Lily and her black mamma Rosaleen have to leave in a hurry, they head for the place that Lily knows her mother had a connection with.
The story has a steady pace about it but is full of colourful characters and wise words of wisdom. I like the comparison of the story to the bees, I thought it worked really well. The character of Lily develops and grows in the story beautifully in her journey of self discovery and learning to accept her past.
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on 1 August 2016
I loved this book. It's a really sweet story of a teenage girl looking for answers in life, set in Southern Carolina in the 1960s. I loved Lily's (who is white) sweet relationship with Rosaleen (who is black) - she doesn't see Rosaleen as a "slave" (nanny) to her, she sees her as a friend. She doesn't understand why black people are segregated based on their skin colour (which was still rife in the 1960s in Southern Carolina). When Rosaleen gets into a bit of bother with the police, that's when Lily decides her current life is not worth living - on a peach farm, with a father who seemingly doesn't love her - and she goes in search of answers about her mother, whom her father told her she accidentally shot when Lily was 4, and tells Lily that her mother was running away from her.

Lily ends up at a beekeeping place, owned by May, June and August Boatwright, who allow her and Rosaleen to stay. She goes here in search of answers to who her mother was, and why her mother held a picture of the honey that was made at this house, labelled at the back Tiburon, SC. She gets roped into a world of beekeeping and making honey, all whilst trying to figure out why her mother left, and why here. This is beautifully explained towards the end of the book. I also really liked the relationship between Lily and Zach, and it was a real eye opener as to just how different life was only 50 years ago (and still is like in some places).

The Secret Life of Bees is a wonderfully written book. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting a genuinely heartwarming read. Not ashamed to admit I cried several times during the novel. Beautiful book.

- Also posted on my Goodreads account -
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on 6 January 2017
Sue Monk Kidd sure knows how to write a beautiful story full of meaning and with depth.
It's a coming of age story set in the American Deep South in the early 19th century, which may sound familiar, however this book is anything but "just another coming of age story".
From the volcanic start of the book, all the way through to the final pages, there are surprises interspersed within the beautifully woven words.
If you're unsure whether this book is for you, please give it a try; it's sad, heartwarming, thoughtful, inspiring and full of hope, whatever the odds stacked against you seem to be. The writing is just gorgeous without being pretentious and not full of annoying metaphors like many other authors. Sue Monk Kidd is definitely on my authors to watch out for list.
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on 17 August 2016
Quite diverting for the duration of a holiday flight, but not serious enough for me. There were several stylistic things to be irritated about: such as the names of the characters, the happy coincidences and the quotations at the start of each chapter. Some more general defects as well: characters were either Good (the queen bee August) or Bad (the father) with hardly any nuance, apart from the late lamented mother. What really grated were the punchline paragraphs at the end of each significant happening, telling you in symbolic woo woo language exactly what to think, in terms highly unlikely to be expressed by the young central character. Instruction to editor: Delete last paragraph from each section, and let the reader work it out a bit. This could be OK as a young person's book, but I'm mystified as to why so many grown-ups are swarming around it.
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on 3 August 2017
This is a story of hope and love. Set in the Southern States of North America when African Americans were finally given the right to vote, it tells the story of an unhappy white girl running away from home to find solace in a 'coloured' household. The title takes its name from the bee keeping activities of 'August', the head of the family, who doles out love and honey in equal quantities. This doesn't sound like a good base for a novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A good feel, and thoughtful story.
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on 8 January 2018
This is a lovely novel about a girl's search for belonging. Lily Owens runs away with Rosaleen, the Owens' black housekeeper and finds herself in the home of the Boatwright sisters in Tiburon, South Carolina. Her weeks in the pink house throw up many questions and revelations and her coming of age, as she realises what others have lost, is beautifully wrought - it is in these closing chapters that Monk Kidd shows us Lily's tipping point from teenage self-absorption into adulthood. When I've seen the movie before the book (as in this case), that tends to fix certain people and scenes in my mind - I'm pleased to say that this didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the story.
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