(Due for publication 20th of August 2020)
I absolutely adore Sarah Crossan’s debut adult novel, Here is the Beehive. The story is written in verse and it is the most exquisite piece of literature that I have read since Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. It is quite simply art.
In some ways Here is the Beehive reminds me of Roy’s manipulation of story structure. Crossan’s story uses a mish-mash of linear and non-linear narrative. For much of the time the present narrative is linear; whereas, much of the past narrative is non-linear. However, some of the past narrative blends into the present narrative. Crossan reproduces traumatic events for the protagonist, Ana, by embedding the non-linear, bi-temporal structure into the story’s skeleton. We, the reader, experience Ana’s trauma through the structure. Her memories continuously interrupt her present, and therefore, interrupt the readers reading experience, which means that we share Ana’s distress.
Right from the beginning, the prose reminded me of Raymond Carver, which was interesting as Carver is mentioned in the story. Though I could have believed this was synchronicity, I don’t think it was. I think Crossan may be influenced by Carver’s minimalist style of writing. The prose emits superfluous detail, but a great deal is hidden below the surface in the subtext. Crossan, like Carver, is fully aware of what silence does for the reader. She invites interpretation, but not ambiguity, it is clear that our sympathies as readers lie with Ana, rather than Connor’s wife Rebecca.
Crossan’s use of psychic distance is interesting. Subtext brings the reader up close, but simultaneously I felt distant from Ana; however, this distance seems to be a technique that mirrors post-traumatic amnesia. There are many repeated words and phrases which hint at something terrible; although, we aren’t presented with the catastrophic trauma memory until close to the end, and gosh, it hurt my heart.
Though the poetic prose is clean and clear, the story is sprinkled with beautiful imagery, which is demonstrated in the following extract: ‘In the raw dark garden the moonbeams light me up like I am on a stage. But I am not singing or dancing.’ For me, prose such as this is reminiscent of Anton Chekhov, which is interesting given his influence on Carver, who may have influenced Crossan. Like Chekhov and Carver, Crossan’s work reminds me of an impressionist painting – a beautiful Monet.
There is an unspeakable beauty in this story and there are so many more thoughts that I could add, such as the title; or how Crossan’s disregard for sentence structure is reminiscent of Beckett, Joyce or Proust; or how there is an affinity with Max Porter’s story Grief is a Thing With Feathers. I’ll leave those thoughts for now though.
Reviewed by Amanda@bonny-highlands (9th of August 2020)