“We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.“
Harriet Evans ~ The Beloved Girls
Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?
The answer lies buried in the past.
It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold.
Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. And she and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .
This book has left me slightly conflicted. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it; the story is interesting and the characters are fascinating. It balances mystery and history, but also manages to educate readers on various topics without being dull or patronising. But my God is it long!
Now I love a chunky book, but considering this is a family saga – or even a thriller – the pace is slow and there are just too many words. The inclusion of the booklet from Catherine’s long-dead aunt was a good idea I’m sure, but I skim read it because it went on for pages and pages and I almost lost interest.
It’s a shame, because I really enjoyed the underlying story and the journey that Catherine and Janey go on. There’s intrigue, drama and love. Catherine and Janey have a turbulent relationship, which develops gradually and is very true to life of teenage girls who were ‘best friends’ when they were younger. Janey’s father is a wonderful character and the story of his life and how he met the Vanes not only provides the history, but involves the reader more heavily in Janey’s life; we are drawn to her, root for her and see the world through her eyes. Catherine is a troubled young woman, torn between what she wants and what her family expect. Together they may just change the world…
At this book’s heart is the past on the brink of collapse as it struggles to understand the modern world and its expectations. The legacy of the bees, an old aristocratic family and the realities of modern life clash against each other – the only possible result is tragedy.
Unfortunately, I can’t give this story the high rating it deserves, because of the sheer excess of words. However, I think it would make a brilliant film!
Thanks to Headline Books for my copy and goodie bag. Opinions my own.