The Prophecy Of Bees is the story of Isabella, a 16-year-old who lives with her widowed mother, Lady Lindy, and their ever-reliable housekeeper, Olga. They are incredibly well-off, thanks to Izzy’s late father’s business prowess, and at the beginning of the book live in London’s Eaton Square. However, due to tension between Izzy and her mother, who disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with her feckless musician boyfriend (a relationship which ended with him disappearing, leaving Izzy pregnant, and feeling forced into an abortion), Lady Lindy decides a fresh start is in order and they move to a manor house, sight unseen, deep in the countryside. Right next to them is a small village, Stagcote, where traditions go back many years and the names in the graveyard are the same names which still populate the village.
Izzy becomes friendly with another “outsider”, Howard, the gate-house resident. He has returned to the area upon his father’s death after a life working in banking in the Far East, although his marriage didn’t survive the move. Izzy regards him as a surrogate father-figure; there’s no hint of impropriety. Two sisters from the village, Brenda and Glenda, regain their previous jobs as cleaners, as does Cedric, who’d been the estate gardener.
But Izzy can’t settle at the manor. She hears scratching noises in the night, seeming to come from within the walls. Certain areas of the house frighten her, and they seem to smell strange, although not in an unpleasant way. Through hints dropped by various villagers, Izzy learns there is supposedly a curse on the residents of the manor, but her mother and Howard immediately dismiss this as being nonsense, spread by country yokels with nothing better to do but attempt to scare a posh teenage townie. However, in the house, the Fletchers’ seem to have a superstition to be obeyed in every situation – but, again, Izzy is told it’s just the “villagers’ ways”.
So many possible conclusions went through my head when reading this – but I kept changing my mind and I was certainly kept guessing! It’s a cliché to call a book a “page-turner”, but that’s exactly what this is. Every happening in the book has an innocent, or a not-so-innocent explanation, so you can read things however they suit you…and everything is beautifully explained and pulled together at the end, if a tad lengthily (it was almost as if the author was showing us how clever he was!)
I’ve no idea how much of the folklore and superstition mentioned in the book is taken from real sources, but they certainly sounded like the sort of ideas and sayings we’ve all heard, and added to the authenticity of the villagers’ beliefs.
As far as I’m aware, this is being marketed as an adult book, but would also be a hit with the YA audience, as I’m sure all the ancient curses/folklore-and-superstition would appeal to a section of them, as would our narrator Izzy.
The only review I’ve seen on a blog, before I began reading this, compared the book to the film The Wicker Man – the “stranger(s) in a strange place with strange ideas” story is similar. It also reminds of a book I read a year or two ago by FG Cottam, one of my favourite “spooky” authors, called Brodmaw Bay.
This isn’t a hugely taxing read, but thoroughly enjoyable, and very cleverly plotted. This is another author who I’ll be keeping my eye on. Great fun.
3.5 out of 5
I received my copy through NetGalley, courtesy of the publishers Orion Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review.