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The Keeper of the Bees

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,348 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
Set in the author's adopted home of California in the 1920s, this is Gene Stratton-Porter's last novel, a story filled with wisdom, a love of nature, and her own abiding optimism. In it a Master Bee Keeper, his bees, and the natural beauty of California restore a wounded World War I veteran to health.
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 1st 1991 by Indiana University Press (first published 1925)
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Gene (Geneva) Stratton-Porter and this book, The Keeper of the Bees, are both sadly overlooked. The Keeper of the Bees is a classic. It’s a beautiful story, wonderfully written, and filled with characters so real, you think you might meet one of them yourself any day now.

Gene Stratton-Porter was brought up in the forests of Indiana – when Indiana had forests – before the trees were cut down for timber – and she was a lover of nature. The natural world plays such importance that is a character in
Monica Drake
Aug 22, 2009 Monica Drake rated it really liked it
This is an older book, 1929 approximately, and in ways it shows--sentimental, religious, delivered with an intrusive third-person narrator--but I love it for all it is. It's a smart book full of insights on our (humans) relationship to nature and the self, community and the individual. It's cool.
I read this years ago on a recommendation from my mom and enjoyed it. This time through I'm in a completely different place in life and appreciate so much more the simple messages in the book.

This is the story of Jamie MacFarlane, a young Scotsman, who has served in World War I and received a shrapnel wound in his chest, a wound that will not heal. After a year of unsuccessful treatment in the hospital, the doctors decide to send him to a TB camp even though he doesn't "yet" have tuberculosis. I
Apr 27, 2009 Alyson rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: not sure that I would
Recommended to Alyson by: Marion Larsen
Shelves: book-club, 2009

Positives: the story was interesting enough (barely) that I kept a-going to the end of the book. Maybe I need to get rid of that S on the end of Positives.

Negatives: This story was so moralistic and preachy I almost couldn't handle it. Now I like me a good moral tale, but I want the morality to come out in the characters and the events, not in lectures from the characters and narrator page after page. Sigh! I just hardly could even handle the hammering of the moral over and over, even thoug
Nov 28, 2014 Mourning rated it it was amazing
When I was reading Gene Stratton-Porter's THE KEEPER OF THE BEES, one of our teens was in the midst of disheartening rebellion; it was a terribly stressful time for many reasons. During the time I was reading this book, we saw a swarm of bees make a nest in our backyard. A dear beekeeper, a man of eighty-one years, came to our home and let me help him move those bees into a hive. The skill and kindness of the beekeeper took me back to those days when my dad let me help him build things and make ...more
Jun 25, 2009 Dawn rated it it was ok
Long-winded, old-fashioned, preachy nonsense. Gee, maybe that's too harsh. Once you strip away all the descriptions of flowers (Gene Stratton-Porter was totally into nature), meal plans (which are a hoot), and God stuff, you're left with a sweet little story about a wounded WWI veteran finding hope again.

This was recommended to me by a lady who thought it was the best book she'd ever read. Honestly, I'd take the Bible over this any day--more sex, violence, gore, plot, fewer flowers, better food,
Feb 14, 2016 Natasha rated it it was amazing
I love the old, eloquent writing. I love the depth and consistency and integrity of the characters. I love the romance. I love the beauty and the truth in it. It was my kind of book :).
May 05, 2016 Megan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is extraordinary. It uplifts the human soul with all that is true, pure and good in this world. It was wonderful to read a story with so much Divine Viewpoint. It reminds us that we are fragile and easily corruptible without the Lord; and for the main character, Jamie, depending on the Lord was the greatest lesson he ever learned.
Apr 24, 2016 Teri-k rated it liked it
For a while I was worried I wouldn't like this book. Though it started well, it bogged down around the half-way point and I wondered if I even wanted to finish it. I persevered, however, and ended up enjoying it. The problem for me was that I found Scout boring after a while, and Scout is a very big, very talkative contributor to this book. I think Scout is supposed to be amusing but I got very tired of the endless prattle and slang. Fortunately Scout fades some in the last third and I was able ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Lori rated it really liked it
It has been a long time since I've read a Gene Stratton-Porter book. I thought this story was charming if somewhat heavy handed. Jamie MacFarlane is a veteran of the Great War. He was injured in service and has spent several years trying to recover from his wound. When he learns that he is to be sent to a sanitarium for tuberculosis, even though that is not his affliction, he decides to begin a great adventure and head off on his own. He takes nothing with him and relies on the goodness and kind ...more
Feb 21, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing
This was my first Gene Stratton-Porter book. At first it kind of took my off guard. It wasn't what I was expected. It is one of the best books! I love the parallel drawn between the main characters ailing body and his ailing soul. When he begans to heal his body and soul he does it through simple faith and gratitude. I like that his relationship is with nothing flowery, just simple and sincere. I wish more books could portray love of God with such peace and gentleness.
Jan 02, 2016 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dragged a bit

This could only be considered historical fiction in that now it is set in a place and time after WWI. But when it was written it was all modern slang, and mostly modern ideas that would fit into the 20th century, as opposed to the 21st.

The story is very wordy, as old books often are, and the story is sweet, between all those words. There is some modern thinking about how life should be lived, but it mixed up with a mess of talking about g*d, which is fine, if you are into that sort
Mar 05, 2008 Marci rated it it was amazing
My favorite Stratton-Porter book so far. I loved the characters in this book, but also enjoyed the setting since I am a garden lover. Great story!
Shanna Hatfield
Apr 13, 2012 Shanna Hatfield rated it really liked it
Another fabulous book by Gene Stratton-Porter. The phrases used in this book make me smile.
Oct 17, 2009 Denise rated it really liked it
Be prepared to fall in love with Jamie and want him for a next door neighbor is all I have to say.
May 06, 2016 Linnae rated it really liked it
Jamie McFarlane, an American of Scottish descent, was wounded in the War (World War I), and has spent time convalescing in a hospital ever since. There's a shrapnel wound on his chest, in particular, that refuses to heal no matter what treatment the doctors prescribe for it. Then one day he overhears the doctors talking about him--specifically, about sending him to a sanitarium where TB is known to run rampant. He somehow gathers the strength to get up and walk away. This begins his Great Advent ...more
Apr 19, 2009 Lorraine rated it liked it
I was browsing the library shelves when this title caught my eye. Having read The Secret Life of Bees, I wondered if this Gene Stratton Porter book would maybe have been a book that influenced the writer in The Secret Life of Bees. I had as a girl read "Freckles" and "Girl of the Limberlost," although I couldn't remember much about them. (I read a lot of books that were stored at our house that had been the books of my aunts and uncles. Some even had my mom's name in them from before she was mar ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it
I read Gene Stratton-Porter books when I was a child and now collect them. I can't even give a good review on them because I have so many books to read that I have not taken the time to get her books out again. I know that I loved them because they were nature/romance stories, but so sweet that they are nothing like Harlequin romance, not even close. I keep telling myself that they will soon be on my list, but since I just joined yet another book club that meets here in my town, making that two ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marian Allen
Jan 02, 2012 Marian Allen rated it did not like it
I apologize sincerely to Gene Stratton Porter fans, but this was one of the worst books I ever finished. I was quite disappointed, because I read FRECKLES by this author when I was young and I adored it.

Details. WHY did I not like this book?

It's illogical, factually inaccurate on many important points, and both mawkishly sentimental and self-righteously pedantic. In Albert Payson Terhune, these flaws are lent a certain charm by his self-deprecating humor (and, of course, the active presence of
Lisa Houlihan
Dec 15, 2014 Lisa Houlihan rated it did not like it
Shelves: novel, female, beekeeping
At page 60, this book is cracking me up. In style of writing it is more like Grace Livingston Hill (one book five years ago) or my first Distributed Proofreaders' book for Project Gutenberg, entitled something like "The Girl Aviators' Motor Butterfly," both contemporary with GSP, than like Girl of the Limberlost, my sole previous experience of this author. In 60 pages the protagonist has survived blood poisoning, defeated bandits, ridden with the Joads, not contracted tuberculosis, been pick-poc ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Debbie rated it really liked it
What a beautiful story!!!
I fell in love with the characters.
A man has returned from World War I and has a hole in his chest that has not healed.
He runs away from a hospital at Arrowhead Springs, CA because they are going to move him to Camp Kearney where he knows he will die of the white death - tuberculosis.
This is a beutiful story of his wanderings and how he becomes the Keeper of the Bees.
The descriptions of bees, flowers and the California coast are priceless!!
I never would have found this b
Mar 16, 2010 Jocelyn rated it really liked it
This book was good. I'm not raving about it, but I enjoyed reading it. It took me a long time to get through it, partly because my time for reading has been limited and partly because it is a rather slow-paced book.

The only other book I have read by this author was The Harvester, which I loved. I can't say I loved this one as much. I rate it 4 stars in general, but in comparison to The Harvester, it only gets 3. There are still elements of the author's writing I enjoy such as her love and knowle
Apr 10, 2016 Adrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautiful

I am still pondering this lovely book and plan to come back to edit/update this review. I will be thinking about this story for some time to come. So glad I took a chance on this author, who mixes prosy language, deep wisdom, excellent character and plot development, and charm together for a jewel of a little novel.
Apr 10, 2009 Angie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
This is one of my all-time favorite books! It is such a beautiful, wholesome, uplifting story about a wounded soldier who departs on a "Great Adventure" and finds physical and spiritual healing as the Keeper of the Bees. Gene Stratton-Porter is a wonderful author. She once wrote, "To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a ...more
May 08, 2016 Katie rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost by this same author, but I had a hard time staying focused on the book (and I've read a lot of older books and enjoyed them). I don't remember a lot from it other than that the story wasn't very interesting.
Mel Bratz
May 11, 2015 Mel Bratz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as her her other books, but if you like her work, you may enjoy this. I wouldn't recommend it as the first thing you pick up by her, since the story line is a bit less compelling than many of her other books. Beautiful language & imagery.
Nov 30, 2015 Marie rated it it was amazing
Tween a 4 and a 5. Very enjoyable. Gene Stratton-Porter meets her own high standard for writing.

Quoting her "To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder-working book. If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature he never saw for himself and leads him one step toward the G
Johnnie Mckenzie
Jun 02, 2015 Johnnie Mckenzie rated it liked it
Great read to learn about bees and to enjoy the garden. A bit unbelievable in the plot. A simpler plot would have focused greater light and joy on the spirit of the Bee Master and his garden world and those who walked through.
Dec 04, 2013 Susie rated it it was amazing
This is an oldy. Gene Stratton-Porter, the author, also wrote Girl of the Limberlost which was wonderful. Keeper of the Bees is hard to define. The author wrote a beautiful story but also threw in some of her religious values as well as some soap-boxing so it's a little different than you would find in a contemporary novel. I still loved the characters (especially Little Scout) and the moral(s) of the story.
I am tongue tied here as I have never read a book like this before and I loved it, but mo
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Healing 1 1 Jun 17, 2016 09:07AM  
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She was an American author, amateur naturalist, wildlife photographer, and one of the earliest women to form a movie studio and production company. She wrote some of the best selling novels and well-received columns in magazines of the day.

Born Geneva Grace Stratton in Wabash County, Indiana, she married Charles D. Porter in 1886, and they had one daughter, Jeannette.

She became a wildlife photogra
More about Gene Stratton-Porter...

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“Don't!" cried Jamie. "Don't be bitter, Margaret. We don't know why, we never can know why things happen in this world exactly as they do; but this we know: We know that God is in His Heaven, that He is merciful to the extent of ordaining mercy; we know that if we disobey and take our own way and run contrary to His commandments, we are bitterly punished. And it is the most pitiful of laws that no man or woman can take their punishment alone in this world. It is the law that none of us can suffer without making someone else suffer, but in some way it must be that everything works out for the best, even if we can't possibly see how that could be when things are happening that hurt us so.” 3 likes
“He swore by all that he ever had loved and reverenced that he would try, try with all his might in the short time that might remain to him...he would forget himself, he would put his own pain and chagrin and disappointment, his own feeling of defeat and uselessness, his own craving for love and intellectual companionship in the background, and he would see if the more than six feet of bone and muscle that contained his being could do any small service that might come his way for God and his fellow man before he went. Maybe if he could accomplish some little thing, something that would ease the ache of even one heart that ached as his was aching at that minute, just maybe that knowledge would be the secret that he might carry in his breast that would set the stamp of an indelible smile on his face, so that even a child could discern the majesty of the impulse and he would not be ashamed when the end came.” 2 likes
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