Monday, April 4, 2011

Review - Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
404 pages
published July 2010

Synopsis from publisher:

Raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, Meridia grows up lonely and miserable. But at age sixteen, she has a chance at happiness when she falls in love with Daniel — a caring and naive young man. Soon they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her husband's family, unaware that they harbor dark secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden, there are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other, and there is Eva — the formidable matriarch and the wickedest mother-in-law imaginable — whose grievances swarm the air in an army of bees. As Meridia struggles to keep her life and marriage together, she discovers long-buried secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that inexorably push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

My thoughts:

I love this novel. I am fighting the urge to read it all over again. The characters showed up in my dreams last week. The actual story itself was not anything terribly unusual, but the author's incredible creativity lifted it to something very, very special.

One of my favorite things about the novel was it's cast of strong, powerful women. The author writes women who truly leap off the page - not all of them sympathetic, some of them flat-out despicable, but each unforgettable in her own way. In fact, this novel really is about the women, leaving the men to serve as bit players, characters that serve a purpose, but are never the driving force behind the story. It is the women who call the shots, the women who own the stage, and I loved every minute of it.

My other favorite thing about the novel is it's gorgeous prose - I love the way Setiawan writes. His words are visual, allowing the reader to paint pictures in their mind as they read his words on the page. I don't want to delve too deeply into the story, so as not to give too much away, but he uses two specific images - bees and mist - as representative objects, and they work perfectly.

"Under the waning moon, they began their journey. Meridia had no idea where her mother was going, aware only that they were heading into the dark heart of the town. The earth was damp and muddy, yet Ravenna walked as though her shoes touched nothing but brick. As the drizzle thickened into rain, they hustled past moldering huts and ramshackle tenements, past temples of abandoned gods and hotels tenanted by transient midnight souls. Eyes without bodies tracked them from the depths of shadows, howling, laughing at every turn of the wind."

This is my favorite book so far this year. It is definitely one I will read again - possibly soon. It feels like the kind of novel that will grow richer with time, and will reveal more with each read. I've seen mixed reviews for it around the 'net, but for me it was a complete hit. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Finished: 4/2/11
Source: review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG-13 for adult content
My rating: 9/10


bermudaonion said...

Wow, you're favorite book of the year! This sounds amazing!

Elizabeth said...

bermuda - it was SOO good!

Kristen M. said...

I'm glad to finally see someone else love this book! I loved it when I first read it too but have only seen tepid reviews since then. I was just amazed that it was a first novel and I got completely swept up in the magical world.