I’m not sure why I was surprised. I loved Jasper Jones, thought it was raw and striking and provocative. I loved it so much that I read it twice… and when Silvey came out with Honeybee I didn’t hesitate, I bought the book immediately. And then, for some reason, it sat on my shelf and gathered dust. I’m not sure why … I can only think that the cover image reminded me of what I thought Scott Monk’s protagonist might have looked like in his book Raw which left me underwhelmed to say the least.
In any event, Silvey’s protagonist stared back at me from the top shelf and every so often I thought “perhaps I should read that” and then was distracted by something or someone and the book remained. Alone.
But yesterday, I read Damon Galgut’s magnificent The Promise. I finished the book and sat there literally feeling bereft because it was done and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I flicked through the pages wondering whether to start at the beginning again. It didn’t seem right. And then I felt Honeybee staring down at me and I knew that now was its time.
I suspect there is indeed a deep connection between these two books for me. Galgut’s Africa is my birthplace. It rang deep in me, a bell tolling – but more about that in another post. And Silvey’s book described my home of the last 30 odd years, where I’ve lived most of my adult life, where I arrived as a 14 or 15 year old into that crazy space in between called adolescence and while I wasn’t exactly a ‘honeybee’ in the way Silvey describes, I think we are all honeybees on some level perhaps searching for a place to belong and I certainly felt like that arriving in Australia all those years ago.
So, Honeybee. What can I say. I was hooked from the very beginning. This beautiful tender moment on an overpass, the soft play of the idea of passing over mixed into the darkness, and the simple and honest relationship that develops between these two remarkable characters. I loved them both. Equally. But differently. Sam for his youth and his sorrow and his hollow existence and his sad past and tragic mother and his disconnection and culinary brilliance. Vic for his loneliness and aloneness, his secrets and his great love. And I loved the music that appeared when the two of them were together, a sense that all was right in the world. I loved the resilience of both these men and their deep goodness, despite the challenges that they both faced. I loved the friendship that emerged between them and then between each of them and others. I won’t say more because it will destroy the magic that unfolds between neighbours and like minded souls.
Perhaps the most remarkable element of this book is the strength that each of these characters demonstrates when seeking to bring joy and resolution to the other. It’s the same sentiment that I remember from Jasper Jones. In truth, Honeybee reminded me that some people are just inherently good and that is a wonderful thing.