I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – Thanks to Amazon Crossing for sending me a copy too!
Title: The Murmur of Bees
Author: Sofia Segovia
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publish date: 16th April 2019
From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution.
From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own.
As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.
From the moment I started this book, I was transported into the vibrant setting in Mexico and into the community of Linares. I found myself immersed in the interesting characters and compelling story which Sofia Segovia has so wonderfully woven together. As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts, I believe it was my review of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, last year I found a real love for historical fiction and The Murmur of Bees has definitely furthered my love for it.
“The original settlement, which, under sustained neglect, bit by bit, dust mote by dust mote, would return to it’s mistress, the earth. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return: as certain for living cells as it was for any heap of bricks, whether Roman, Mayan or Linarense’ –
I can’t stress how beautiful Segovias prose is, just read that excerpt above, honestly captivating. There are so many quiet moments like that where Segovia exposes something so innately human and it made me so emotional whilst reading. This is fiction at it’s best, and it just reinforced why I love stories like this one, a story about ordinary people, their experiences and finding communion despite differences.
The story begins through the perspective of a wizened elderly woman, Nana Reja who is watching the world go by from her rocking chair. For as long as anyone can remember, she hasn’t spoken a word or moved from her position. Until one day when Nana Reja is nowhere to be found…when the townspeople find her, she has found a baby, drawn by it’s cries. The Morales family take the baby Simonopio in as one of their own and he changes their lives forever.
I really liked that alongside the depiction of everyday life, with both the wonderful and mundane moments it entails, there’s also a supernatural undercurrent throughout the book. As well as having a special connection with the bees, who protect and guide him, Simonopio also has strong intuition about the future. Through his senses, Simonopio helps protect his family as well as winning the hearts of the townspeople, with the exception of the bitter worker, Anselmo Espiricueta, who believes the baby to be cursed.
While the story has a focus on Simonopio, we get to read through a variety of perspectives, from Nana Reja to Francisco and Beatriz Morales. I liked that we also get to see through the antagonistic perspective of Anselmo, I know some readers find this narrative style confusing or overwhelming, for the most part I really enjoy it, and Segovia does this so well. Each character has such a distinctive voice, right down to the most minor character, you feel a connection and that’s not something every writer can achieve.
I’m not familiar with Mexican literature and while this is my first foray , I will definitely be making a point to read more books by Mexican authors and anthologies which feature Mexican writers for sure. I learnt so much about the outbreak of Influenza and the brewing Mexican revolution, as Segovia weaves together fact and fiction in such a skilful way.
Above all, the story is rooted in the Morales family and how they survive through changes in their town, society as a whole and battle against all sorts of obstacles. It’s a story of survival, of love and loyalty.
Overall, I can’t speak more highly of The Murmur of Bees it’s such a brilliant and emotive story, which is so beautifully written. This story is going to stick with me for a long time, and it’s definitely one of my favourite reads this year, thus far. I believe even if you prefer contemporary fiction, this is such a pleasant story rooted in family and human connection – which anyone can enjoy.
★★★★★ – 5 Star Rating
Have you guys ever read a novel set in Mexico? Are you familiar with any Mexican authors? Would to chat in the comments + get any recommendations!
Until next time,