Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes

Synopis from Caroline Smaile’s website:
Nina, her son Christopher in tow, flies to Malta for one last visit with her aging parents.
Her previous attempt to see them ended in tears. Disowned for falling pregnant while at university in England, she was not allowed into the house.
This will be her final chance to make her peace with them.
But Malta holds more secrets and surprises than Nina could possibly imagine. What she finds is not the land of her youth, a place full of memories and happiness. Instead she meets dead people. Lots of them.
Malta, it transpires, is a transit lounge for recently deceased spirits and somehow Christopher enables her to see them, speak with them and help them.
And, in return, they help Nina come to terms with her own loss. One so great that she has yet to admit it to herself.
A major new novel from the acclaimed author of In Search of Adam and Black Boxes. In her third novel,  Caroline Smailes draws upon her own family history for a remarkable and unforgettable story. Like Bees to Honey is a story of loss, redemption and ghosts. It is a magical tale that will live with you long after you finish reading.
The story tells the tale of Nina’s journey from being broken and lifeless to acceptance and wholeness.
The story is full of symbolism (which I enjoyed) and I loved the way the author uses onomatopoeia.
There are references to the Maltese folklore, which played a large part in Nina’s childhood and helps the reader to understand her character – and how confusing that can be when you are living in a different cultural city.
Once back in her homeland of Valetta in Malta, ghosts guide Nina and impart wisdom so that she is able to heal her emotions herself.  One particular ghost, Tilly, who has to stay in Nina’s family home, also heals as she is helping Nina.  Tilly’s character comes across really well and I thought she was adorable.
If you are staunchly religious you may be upset by Jesus’ portrayal ……………….  Personally, I found him to be written about as a beer swilling, chocolate loving, watcher of reality TV icon rather endearing.  He loses none of his compassion despite having his own office.  I loved this ‘grounded’ view of Jesus.  I also loved the idea that John Lennon hangs out in TGI Friday’s in competition with Jesus!
We don’t get to meet Nina’s husband Matt but we do get to read letters that she writes to him.  In the letters she describes the dreams in where Matt plays a central role (but doesn’t post).  In the beginning the dreams always feature an old woman who is speaking to her but she doesn’t understand the language – and the old women represent Matt.  Just one example of the symbolism found in Like Bees to Honey.
All through the book, Nina is dealing with the guilt she feels about her son Christopher.  There is a timely reunion with her father and sister which goes some way to helping her come to terms with what life has thrown at her.
Like Bees to Honey is unique in the way it is written.  It blends humour with seriousness and Caroline Smailes writing style is original.
I downloaded the Kindle version and Caroline Smailes told me the Maltese characters hadn’t translated well for the Kindle – but I found it didn’t detract from the flow of reading.
To find out more about Caroline Smailes and to follow her on social networking sites please check out her website
Like Bees to Honey was published by The Friday Project 27 May 2010.


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