Book Reviews: Atonement and The Secret Life of Bees

atonement.JPGI finished two fiction books this month, which seems like a grand accomplishment considering all that divides my time. Atonement, by Ian McEwan, was chosen by a friend for our book club. It has three distinct sections, plus an epilogue, and most reviewers on Amazon had pretty strong feelings about which section they preferred.

Even though the story seemed pretty typical – would be lovers torn apart by circumstances out of their control – McEwan’s writing was smooth and poetic and beautiful enough to keep me attached to the story, particularly in the first section. His descriptions of movements, interactions, and setting were stunning. While on the airplane heading to our white water rafting trip, I read a certain passage that took place in the dark corners of a home library, and let’s just say I needed a cold glass of water to bring down the heat after that one.

I wasn’t a big fan of how the ending was written, but I understood the usefulness of it. I would have just preferred something more challenging for the writer. It seemed too easy. But then again, I’m a big critic of story endings because i struggle with them so much myself.

Atonement will make you ache for what can’t be taken back. It will make you angry for all the seemingly minute events in your life that you wish you could change, had you known what lied ahead. But that’s okay, go ahead and read it anyway. It will be a good lesson on the sovereignty of God.

secret life of bees.JPGI loved loved loved The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m discovering that I love first person stories written from the perspective of a child (like Davita’s Harp), and I love coming-of-age stories. Lily is fourteen, and she lives in the south during the late 1950’s (or maybe the early 60’s? There was talk of voting for President Johnson). She is motherless and lives with a father so unfatherly she calls him by his first name, and she worries she is responsible for her mother’s death. Circumstances prompt her to run away with her black servant, the woman hired to raise her after her mother died, and they find themselves in a little corner of heaven just a few hours away, at the home of three black, bee-keeping sisters.

Each chapter begins with an epigraph on the life or characteristics of bees that foreshadow the coming plot. I’m not sure which was more fascinating to me – the resemblance of bee communities to human society, or the ability of the author to weave a story in and through and around the secret life of bees. Those who keep bees (and you know who you are) and those who are writing memoirs with a nature theme (and you know who you are) will enjoy this book. The author creates a little hive, a put-together family with a queen, and we watch and wonder whether it will survive the heat, the cold, and the stress.

The Secret Life of Bees
is a definite Must Read for the summer.

(For ratings and other reviews on books I’ve read, visit my Shelfari page and my books category.)

6 thoughts on “Book Reviews: Atonement and The Secret Life of Bees

  1. I loved Secret Life of Bees, too. Such a great read. So great I wish I hadn’t read it before so I can read it again. Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife? Also most excellent. Oh, and Wicked. But I’ve probably already recommended them to you? I spout the same crap all the time. If I keep repeating it, that means someone will do it, right? πŸ˜‰

  2. I have not read The Time Traveler’s Wife, but I think it’s on my list. Or maybe that was The Memory Keeper’s Daughter? Bah – maybe it’s both! Anyhow, I’ll get it on there!

  3. I didn’t know you were reading The Secret Life of Bees. I read it last summer and loved it – I came home from our last book club and had to read it again just because I was in the mood for a good summer read. We should have a mini-bookclub with Amy, she just read it as well. I loved all the bee analogies and I think I might be becoming obsessed with bees now.

  4. I loved both of these books…also really loved The Time Traveler’s Wife…The Memory Keepers Daughter was okay…I highly recommend Life of Pi – I know its been out a couple years but I loved it!

  5. They are making a movie based on The Secret Life of Bees. Dakota Fanning will be playing Lily. I’ve read the The Time Traveler’s Wife and in fact, it’s one of my favorites. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was outstanding and I haven’t read Life of Pi yet. I think I will give it a try! A note about Sue Monk Kidd…I’ve received Guideposts magazine for YEARS and have always enjoyed her writing. I’m glad to see her success in fiction.

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