The Beekeepers Apprentice
by Laurie King
A mystery, a coming of age, a golden snap shot of the time during and following
I always do a terrible job
any time I try and describe this book. The concept being such as infuriates
certain purists. But, review it I must, for this is a gem of a book. A
perfectly captured memory. Like those faded snapshots from a documentary.
Faded and yet fierce intelligent eyes gaze out at you all the same.
The story is simple, it reads
like a young adult book, a jewish teenager, Mary Russell, recently orphaned,
wanders the 1915 Suffolk downs with her head in her book. She literally
stumbles over a tall thin middle aged man daubing honey bees with paint,
so he can track them
He insults. She insults.
Fierce intelligences find a match in friendship.
I suppose I should mention,
which is why it’s always hard to describe, that the man is Sherlock Holmes.
Biting, sarcastic, witty, brilliant, fascinating. He becomes Mary’s teacher
and mentor, molding brilliant precocious clay into, well not quite, a detective.
She’d rather be studying theology.
The story is told first person,
as if from a perspective of great age. However, time has not dimmed the
emotions involved. There is an incredible sense of shifting, flowering.
A sense of a girl becoming a woman at the same time that a new terrible,
wonderful age is being born. An age where a generation of young men poured
their lives and youth into the trenches. An age when monstrous regiments
of women agitated for an equal say in government and education and life.
An age when old ways of life convulsed giving birth to the new. An age
when Sherlock Holmes, a pre-curser of the new age and yet a relic of the
old, sits on the Suffolk Downs with a seventeen year old girl playing chess
while bombs in distant Belgium echo faintly across the channel.
It’s a book that tastes like
wild honey, golden, sweet and smooth with just a touch of bitter.