The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie King

Description: A mystery, a coming of age, a golden snap shot of the time during and following WWI.

I always do a terrible job any time I try and describe this book. The concept being such as infuriates certain purists. But, review it I must, for this is a gem of a book. A perfectly captured memory. Like those faded snapshots from a documentary. Faded and yet fierce intelligent eyes gaze out at you all the same.

The story is simple, it reads like a young adult book, a jewish teenager, Mary Russell, recently orphaned, wanders the 1915 Suffolk downs with her head in her book. She literally stumbles over a tall thin middle aged man daubing honey bees with paint, so he can track them 

He insults. She insults. Fierce intelligences find a match in friendship.

I suppose I should mention, which is why it’s always hard to describe, that the man is Sherlock Holmes. Biting, sarcastic, witty, brilliant, fascinating. He becomes Mary’s teacher and mentor, molding brilliant precocious clay into, well not quite, a detective. She’d rather be studying theology. 

The story is told first person, as if from a perspective of great age. However, time has not dimmed the emotions involved. There is an incredible sense of shifting, flowering. A sense of a girl becoming a woman at the same time that a new terrible, wonderful age is being born. An age where a generation of young men poured their lives and youth into the trenches. An age when monstrous regiments of women agitated for an equal say in government and education and life. An age when old ways of life convulsed giving birth to the new. An age when Sherlock Holmes, a pre-curser of the new age and yet a relic of the old, sits on the Suffolk Downs with a seventeen year old girl playing chess while bombs in distant Belgium echo faintly across the channel.

It’s a book that tastes like wild honey, golden, sweet and smooth with just a touch of bitter.

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