Hello, friends! I’m bringing you the review for a book I really, really wanted to love — but still ended up liking. It has so many magical elements, family stories, and it’s a very impressive story of Mexico in the late 1910s and 1920s!
Title: The Murmur of Bees
Author: Sofía Segovia
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Page count: 540 pages
Published on April 16, 2019 by Amazon Crossing
Old Nana Reja finds a baby boy with a facial deformity and enveloped in a swarm of bees under an abandoned bridge. No one knows whose child this is, how he has survived for so long, how he hasn’t been stung by the bees, or why Nana Reja felt the strong need to go for a walk for the first time in years.
Francisco and Beatriz take the boy in and raise him sheltered from the villagers’ disdain and superstition. But as the Spanish Influenza starts to claim lives, the couple realizes this little mysterious boy can see and predict things other people can’t…
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley. This has not influenced my opinion.
There is so, so much to say about The Murmur of Bees — after all, it is over 500 pages long! While I was fully expecting to give this novel a solid 5-star rating, that ended up not being the case. Nonetheless, I still quite enjoyed it! So let me start off with everything I loved about this novel… Then let’s move on to the less-good aspects of it…
🐝 It is such a whimsical story!
I don’t think I have ever read a book like this one. There is magic in pretty much everything, the characters have their own little quirks no one else but them understands, and the plot really tugs at your heartstrings.
The only way I can describe The Murmur of Bees is by saying that it is unexpectedly magical and quirky. If you like the writing of classical Latinx writers (García Márquez, Allende…), then I’m certain you will like this one…
🐝 Simonopio is the most interesting character I’ve read about for a while
The little boy who no one can understand, who doesn’t go anywhere without his swarm of bees, and who can see things no one else can is such a complex and interesting character.
No one knows exactly why he has so many abilities, but people have just learned to live with it. As a result, we never find out why Simonopio is the way he is. But, luckily, we get to spend a lot of time with him and read about all his quirks.
I mean, how many characters can really see the future, have a mental connection with bees, and have a very intense ability to relate to others even though they don’t understand them??? He truly is unique. And if there are a lot of characters like Simonopio, I need to read about them!
🐝 It’s hard to pick sides!
One of the major themes of the novel is the Agrarian Land Reform of the 1910s and 1920s. The main characters (Simonopio, Beatriz, and Francisco) are part of a land-owning family in the village of Linares, Nuevo León. They have had the privilege of coming from a wealthy family, and so their privilege has passed down through the generations.
At the same time that this family lives a good life, we see other characters (namely the meanest, nastiest ones) who are poor and have never had the advantages that come with owning land in their life.
As a socialist at heart (no, it is not a dirty word), it was hard for me to pick a side at first. I understand the struggles of not owning land, which are the motivations (at first) for the “bad people’s” actions. And at the same time I understand the struggle of losing all your land thanks to a political reform, but I still lean more towards favoring this law. Real life is so complicated! Which is why this is an amazing novel in this sense: nothing is black or while.
🐝 I loved the setting
This is the first time I read a book set in Northern Mexico. And it offered such a beautiful view of this part of the country! The author does such a great job at describing the nature and farms and rivers and mountains. I truly felt like I was in Linares.
🐝 The narrators are SO good
One thing I absolutely loved about this novel was the variety of narrators. Some chapters are narrated from the POV of Simonopio, others from Beatriz or Francisco’s POV, and others (my favorites) by the unborn new addition to the family!
I thought it was super original to have a little fetus narrating certain events as if he knew everything. There is also a lot of metafiction involved in these chapters. For example, the narrator would stop a telling an event in the middle of the action, start a new chapter, and declare something along the lines of “Wait, is this really how it happened? Don’t be impatient, reader, we will get there.”
☁️ Sometimes, it dragged on
The pacing at the beginning and at the end of the novel are really good. Everything happens quickly enough to keep you always guessing and glued to the pages. But somewhere a third into the story, the whole plot loses steam. It became tiring for me to pick up the book because I felt like the story wasn’t going anywhere. I just couldn’t stay interested…
Luckily, I was able to push through it — and it payed off big time! The last 100 pages are sublime, I was fearing so much for the characters and rooting for them the whole time.
☁️ It became confusing at times
Because there are so many narrators and we’re introduced to so many characters (even if they don’t have a big part to play in the novel), it sometimes became hard to say who was narrating and who did what. I wish there would have been a name at the top of the page that begins the chapter telling us whose perspective we’re reading from.
☁️ I was disappointed to not keep up with Simonopio
Going into the book, I was under the impression that it was about Simonopio, since he is such an interesting character shrouded in mystery. But as it turns out, he isn’t the character we hear most from.
I don’t want to spoil anyone, so I’ll leave this off by saying that we should have totally read more about Simonopio and even from him point of view. There was so much more than could have been done with his character!!
Have you ever read any books by Sofía Segovia? I totally think you should pick this one up if you like magical realism, family stories, and historical fiction!