Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is a fable which covers three generations and occurs in a mythical town where spirits and witchcraft are both expected and bound to surprise. The book centers on Meridia, an only child who grows up lonely in a home where her mother is overprotective and her father is just a distant mist. When she falls in love with Daniel it seems as if all her dreams have come true and she has been taken into a warm and welcoming family- little does she realize that they have secrets and troubles all their own.

Of Bees and Mist is not a book you can rush into, it takes a little while to become accustomed to Setiawan's style of storytelling but although it may first come across strange and confusing, you will definitely be rewarded if you give it a chance, because ultimately the book is both rich and engrossing. At times I wasn't quite sure what was going on but as the book progressed I learned to put my own ideas about what was possible aside and simply appreciate the symbolism Setiawan layers into the novel. At times however, I found the storytelling slightly awkward particularly when it came to the dialogue which didn't have the ease and beauty of the rest of the novel. There were also so many layers in the book that there were moments when they became muddled together and lacked the clarity and precise I was hoping for. I was also slightly let down by the ending, which I felt was too rushed given the pace of the rest of the book and perhaps tried too hard to redeem a character which had spent the rest of the book being described in a completely irredeemable manner.

What I most appreciated about Of Bees and Mist was its ability to surprise me and challenge conventions by mixing the ancient and the supernatural so that it took occurred in a time and place which could have been anywhere or nowhere and where the reader cannot take anything foregranted. The novel took me quite awhile to read, because it must be read slowly both in order to prevent the reader from becoming muddled but also just to soak up the richness of the story. I also really appreciated that despite romance being a huge part of the book, Setiawan's main female characters, especially Meridia, are extremely powerful people. Lately I have been finding literature increasingly overwhelmed by weak female main characters who are extremely reliant on males, something that frustrated me in another book with a slightly magical tint I read recently, The Mermaid's Pendant. Although some of the imagery in Of Bees and Mist could be seen as obvious, I did find that it seemed to suit the characters perfectly, and I could easily imagine Daniel's mother Eva and her bees. In the end, one thing is for certain, Setiawan has both an incredibly interesting and likely brilliant mind as what he creates in Of Bees and Mist are strange yet powerful images and although the book has its faults as any first novel is liable to, I will certainly be curious for what he has to offer next. ***

Number of Pages: 416 pages
Published: August 2009 
This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like this is not a perfect book but that it is still a very worthwhile read. I'll be expecting good things from this author in the future for sure!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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