Translated by Simon Bruni.
From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution.
From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.
Available on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited (audio included)
Let’s start with a review of the spectacular audio available with this book.
Narration: Xe Sands and Angelo Di Loreto nail it! Their voices are perfect to deliver this narrative. They deliver alternating chapters told from varied perspectives. Xe Sands carries most of the characters while Angelo Di Loreto narrates the chapters told from Francisco’s perspective. There is noticeable distinction between male and female characters and even between female characters.
Production: Clean, clear, in sync with the text. No issues at all.
Overall experience: I’ll put it this way, I could not stop listening. Normally when I go to bed I switch off the audio and just read. The night I was finishing this book, it was time for bed so I grabbed my headset and settled in to listen to the final chapters. I HAD to hear the conclusion of the story in Francisco’s voice! The audio brilliantly enhanced this narrative and of course, it was great to hear the accents and correct pronunciation of people and place names.
All I can say is that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to choose my top book for 2019 because I’ve read some pretty awesome stories, this one included.
Chapters are told from multiple perspectives yet it’s never confusing. The tone and expressions used for Simonopio is vastly different from that used with lady of manor, Beatriz. Francisco’s chapters are authoritative and contrast starkly against the vindictiveness oozing from the pages dedicated to Anselmo. These multiple points of view allow the reader to examine issues from different angles and feel conflicting emotions.
The characters we meet are simply unforgettable. How could a reader forget Simonopio, the bee child. Discovered under a blanket of bees and with a mouth so deformed he’d never be able to speak properly, the child is marked as the devil’s own by simpler and more malicious villagers. But to the Morales family, he becomes a beloved addition and ends up being a vital part of their familial fabric. He is raised as their godson but he is loved and trusted as if he were their flesh and blood. Simonopio, in turn, remains devoted to the family. He regards himself as young Francisco’s brother and dedicates his life to protecting the only family he ever knows.
Beatriz the mother, the wife, the caretaker is a lusciously complex woman. She is committed to doing the best for those in her care and acts as guardian to all. She admits her flaws, bemoans the limitations placed on her as a woman yet through her inner strength, she inspires those nearest to her.
That theme therefore of family- familial duty and care- echoes across all the pages of this book. It is evident in the love between Francisco and Beatriz, the love they have for their children and godson and the love they express for their ancestors and their land and people. Their sense of duty to all those things and their commitment to serve their community and pass on traditions is also made clear.
Use of forbearing: Forbearing is a good tool to create suspense. That’s a good thing for the writer. For the reader, however, who has come to love the characters and wants to see each and every one of them triumph, the forbearing is a weight we carry from page to page, from scene to scene. Is this the part where something I don’t want to happen will?
And because the author has made you believe in these characters and feel for them, you dread the moment you know you’ll hate and will make you cry… and this book made me cry.
Fortunately there were also moments of levity and short scenes in which the reader can get lost in the beauty of the Mexican landscape. There are scenes that remind you no matter the country, culture, time period, sometimes children will just be children and drive their parents to distraction.
I think it’s evident how much I enjoyed this book. I’ve even recommended it to my Latin American History students as we are currently covering the Mexican Revolution, which is the historical backdrop to this fictional tale. Many of the real issues we study for the Revolution surface in this novel, with conflicting perspectives shown.
I got this book earlier this year in the Amazon World Book Day giveaway, complete with audio. I couldn’t be happier with this score.
I give The Murmur of Bees 5/5 espresso shots.