Of Bees and Mist is touted as a adult fairytale, which is usually the wording used when publishers or reviewers don’t want to admit they’re reading a fantasy. It’s probably closest to magic realism.
Meridia grows up in a house haunted by yellow-eyed ghosts and coloured mists. They take her father away every night, and return him home each morning. Her mother, Ravenna, seems mad as she haunts the kitchen. Gradually, as Meridia grows up, she learns more about her parents’ tragic history. Her escape comes when she meets the charming Daniel. However, when she moves into his parents’ house, she soon discovers her new mother-in-law, Eva, is not the loving, supportive woman she appeared to be before the marriage. Daniel’s house is haunted too, by swarms of bees rather than mist.
I enjoyed the start of this book. It has a direct, matter-of-fact but attractive writing style that presents the magic of the town as normal (which is why I count it as magic realism). Every now and again, however, the writing descends into cliche, which because of the solidness of the writing most of the time, is really glaring.
As with the writing, so the story. My heart sank when I realised I was dealing with man-cheating-on-wife (this has got to be the most over-used “literary” plot line in the history of the world) and overbearing-mother-in-law tropes. The devices of the mists and bees to represent those things are lovely and original, but not enough to rescue the story for me from cliche and over-the-top melodrama. In particular, despite early successful efforts to present aspects of the personality of Eva as positive, it eventually descends into black and white Meridia-perfect, Eva-evil characterisations. As for Daniel, in no way do I think he remotely deserves the ending he gets.
A well-told story for anyone interested in domestic dramas with a touch of magic realism, but a little too melodramatic for me.
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