MindyBuchanan, October 29, 2009 (view all comments by MindyBuchanan)
Wow. This was an amazing book. Setiawan weaves a magical story where all the familiar feelings inside relationships take solid form and become almost a character within the story. With vibrant and intoxicating descriptions of mists, menacing bees, ghosts in mirrors and man-beasts, Setiwan creates an allegory for the harshness and tenderness of betrayal, love and finally forgiveness. He hits nerves and exposes the rawness of the emotional centers of his characters in a way that is both heart wrenching and delightful.
I am incredibly impressed by a male author who can perfectly and so completely capture every emotional tenet of not just one, but many women occupying the heart of his story. He does so without casting them in the familiar corners of hero, whore, victim or merely window dressing. Through his words he breaths fully realized characters who are good, bad and everything in between.
I will be eagerly awaiting his next novel - whenever and whatever it may be.
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gaby317, July 6, 2009 (view all comments by gaby317)
Set in a fictional country which could have been anywhere in the world and in any time, Erick Setiawan created a place that is both magical and controlled by the laws of magic. The book covers three generations of two main families. Meredia is the female lead of the book and we find her first as a young girl growing up in a cold and difficult household. Her parents seem to be in constant war and have become eccentric. Her mother spends her days in the kitchen, muttering angrily about her father. Her father is unapproachable and often disparaging. This was her life until she somehow discovers and falls in love with Daniel. With some difficulty and heartache, the young lovers are able to marry. This marks the start of another phase in Meredia's life and she tries to win over her controlling mother-in-law Eva. Eva turns out to be her nemesis and the catalyst for Meredia's growing up.
While Daniel and her father-in-law appear to be under Eva's control, Meredia grows the strength and independence that enables her to create her own home, business, and life.
I found myself constantly hoping that Meredia would become stronger and see through Eva's tricks. And when Meredia came into her own, this was the best part of the book. Some reviewers mentioned that this is reminiscent of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and I agree. It shares the same magical undertones and feel.
I read this book courtesy of the Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club and am very glad that I did. The book did not read like a debut novel - it was carefully crafted and beautifully written.
katknit, June 25, 2009 (view all comments by katknit)
Of Bees and Mist is a fairy tale for adults, full of fanciful features meant to symbolize pieces of the life of the main character, a young woman named Meridia. It is also something of a coming of age story. While many readers seem to find the book enchanting, for me the "magic" and metaphors were ludicrously exaggerated. Meridia's life is a misery from first page to last. Her parents come across as barely human, and they raise their daughter in a cold, misty void. Meridia's only "friend", Hannah, is obviously Meridia's inner self, the strength that lies buried within. Her husband is spineless, her mother in law a gross caricature of a harpy from hell (she's the one with the bees, an endless, malevolent supply of them.) The more minor characters are treated as pawns.
For me, reading Of Bees and Mist was a bleak, disagreeable experience. I cannot recommend it, but would suggest to those considering giving it a try that they read the positive reviews as well, before making a decision one way or another.
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Simon & Schuster -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Setiawan's debut novel spans 30 years in this heartfelt magical-realist story of two rival families living in a mystical world that transcends both time and place. Meridia is a lonely child; a mysterious incident when she was an infant has torn apart her parents, leaving them sharing nothing but a cold, mist-filled home. Not until Meridia meets the charmer Daniel, at age 16, does she finally feel loved. They marry and move in with his family and at first Meridia loves her life in Daniel's home. But she quickly learns of matriarch Eva's deceitful, manipulative ways and her power, both natural and supernatural, which she uses to control her family. When Meridia rebels against Eva, finding unexpected support from her parents, the rivalry solidifies and a lifelong battle begins. As time passes, Meridia faces heartbreak and betrayal, becoming a strong, fiercely independent woman. While filled with fortune-tellers, ghosts and unexplained phenomena, the relationships between the various characters are true to life so that fans of fantasy and fiction lovers alike are sure to enjoy this magical tale." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction,
"Of Bees and Mist is sheer enchantment. Erick Setiawan has created a magical world just outside of our own..."
by John Connolly, author of The Book of Lost Things and The Lovers,
"A beautifully crafted adult fairy tale of love, loss and loyalty that is at once witty, magical, and moving."
by Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain and Brothers,
"Of Bees and Mist is set in a secretive and mythical landscape where readers will yearn to be. A marvel of a novel."
Setiawan's atmospheric debut is a beautiful, engrossing fable of three generations of women in two families, their loves and losses, their destructive jealousies and deceptions, and their triumphs.
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