of bees and mist


'...the kitchen was Ravenna's sanctuary. In this large, bright room where the ceiling soared two stories high and the tiles were scrubbed four times a day, the lady of the house poured her venom into the endless meals she cooked. As she chopped, grilled, and boiled, Ravenna addressed the vegetables in a dark and private language, telling them of sorrow and despair. The fury of her pots and pans kept visitors away, while her air of absentmindedness spun a web of solitude about her.'


- Erik Setiawan
Of Bees and Mist



Feuding families
Starcrossed lovers
History repeating
Magic realism
And love conquering all... sort of... in the end


Whilst reading Of Bees and Mist i spent a fair amount of time battling the urge to throw it angrily to the floor and stomp upon its misleadingly charming cover.
How can you write people so desperately aggravating but one dimensional all at once?
Erik Setiawan's men are all weak-willed, spineless losers and his women, shrieking valkyries.
Only the lead character dares to expose the qualities of a real like human being with faults and strengths and the ability to adapt, to learn.
I found myself feeling physically repulsed by the very mention of the stereotypical mother-in-law who wailed and schemed with all the prowess of a napping simpleton throughout the entirety of the book.
I can't remember the last time i've felt that way about a character.
And to be able to create this amount of emotion is something i have to applaud Setiawan for.
But in a way, i don't want to.
Sure, i enjoyed this book, it took a while but by the end i was fairly smitten but it lacked the necessary depth to be something that truly stirs.
It was nothing like reading Cloud Street or The House of Spirits or The Magic Toyshop.
All of which bear the same basic narrative principle as Of Bees and Mist but taken to that elevated place all writers wish they could reside.
Give me Tim, Angela and Isabel any day over Erik.
But.
 I am planning on reading more of his work.
This was his first novel and i'm interested to see how his storytelling develops.
If it's anything like those three greats up there? I'm sold.