Book Review: Here Is The Beehive

Here Is The Beehive is a brutally honest, poetically-written, depiction of deceit and love written in the form of a confession and a memorial by Ana, a grieving woman on the wrong side of an affair.  The unique writing style, and the story itself will – I have no doubt – make this book a popular choice for many a book club over the coming months.

contemporary fiction | romance

Rating: 3 out of 5.

dust cover blurb

Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it. 

But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret.

How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach – Connor’s wife Rebecca. 

Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.

Author Sarah Crossan| Published by Bloomsbury Circus in August 2020 | Pages272 (hardback)

my thoughts

The moment I heard I’d won a copy of Here Is The Beehive from the gorgeous Ova @excusemereading I hit Google like a possessed woman to see exactly what I had to look forward to. After all, a gifted book is the only thing better than a book book, right? I found plenty of reviews using words like raw, visceral, and beautiful, in their descriptions. But my own experience with this book has been a little different. 

Although this isn’t Sarah Crossan’s first book, Here Is The Beehive is her first novel for adults, and it’s the first of her books I’ve read.  It tells the story of Ana and Connor who’ve been embroiled in a three-year long affair.  The story is told entirely from Ana’s perspective, weaving between a present day narrative and recollected memories.

Ana and Connor meet by chance on the day he came to write his will at the legal practice Ana works for.  There’s a mutual early attraction but nothing sparks until their paths cross again, by chance, two weeks later. The affair escalates rapidly but the fleeting glimpses of romance are smothered by Ana’s possessive thoughts and behaviours, worsened by Connor’s duplicity.  

Yes, Connor’s duplicity.  

Whilst their affair itself is the very epitome of duplicitous, Ana is painfully open about ending her marriage to Paul whilst Connor is more manipulative … he’s clearly lying to his wife Rebecca, but he’s also lying to Ana.  He feeds Ana all the lines about a loveless, sexless, unbalanced marriage; he tells Ana he loves her; he buys her perfume and takes her to hotels; and yet every night he returns home to Rebecca and their three sons, forbids Ana from contact him outside work hours, and buys his wife the same perfume so she won’t notice Ana’s perfume on him.  

You curated this Rebecca especially for me.

But any pity or compassion I perhaps should be feeling for Ana is completely lacking.  So much for the sisterhood, eh!? During the affair, Ana continually goads Connor into sharing snippets of information about Rebecca that she can measure herself against; reassure herself that she, Ana, is the sexier, smarter, more appealing woman.  And at times Connor’s complies, but the scraps he shares appear to be carefully curated to stoke Ana’s insecurities.  She spirals into bitterness, and a self-absorption that seeps into her own family life, affecting the relationship she has with her son and daughter.

The affair comes to a very sudden and very final end.  It’s not the wake-up call Ana should have seen though, and before long she’s insinuating herself ever deeper into Connor’s life; befriending his wife, mirroring her appearance, babysitting his sons, and even trying to spark up a new liaison with his best friend Mark.  Perhaps this could be an extreme, un-sharable, outpouring of grief for lives lost … but to me it felt chilling. Bunny-boiler territory. 

As the book reaches it end, Ana does eventually start to look beyond her own feelings – perhaps finally understanding the impact on her children; perhaps because she’s started to see Connor for the man he was; or perhaps she’s just looking for another man to make her feel loved and lovable again.  We never do find out what triggers her change of behaviour, her change of heart, after three years of appearing to despise her family. And we never do find out what becomes of Ana’s family and Rebecca’s family.  I’m not asking for a Disney happy ending here, just an epilogue that suggests the dark manipulation so oppressively present through the book, might be lifting.

Here Is The Beehive certainly can’t be accused of glamorising affairs. This really is a Marmite book, and readers will find themselves taking a side.  But there aren’t just two sides; 

Connor or Ana

Ana or Rebecca

Connor or Paul  

Ana is the victim or Ana is the provocateur  

Ana is grieving or Ana is dangerous  

The book is written in short stanzas, in the style of poetry, but without the comfort of rhythm or rhyme.  Not only does this make it incredibly quick to read, but it smartly creates an unmistakable and unique voice for Ana.  The bursts of text propel parts of the story with a feverish urgency, and conversely slow others down to really let the emotional impact sink in.  The breaks between the stanzas are reminiscent of a boss, or a school teacher, who could use the power of silence to intimidating effect. Very very clever.

Here Is The Beehive is available now from Amazon and Waterstones in print and e-book formats.

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