Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Telling the Bees” as Want to Read:
Telling the Bees
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Telling the Bees

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  1,147 ratings  ·  307 reviews
Young Albert Honig spends much of his time in solitude, his daily routine shaped by the almost mystical attention he quietly lavishes on his bees. Into his tightly repressed existence bursts a brash young neighbour, whose vivacity and boldness begin to transform his life. Yet years pass by, feelings are repressed, opportunities missed. Until one day - led by a trail of bee ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 7th 2013 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Telling the Bees, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Telling the Bees

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Bee-fore you bee-gin this novel, it would bee-hoove you to bee sure you find bees sufficiently bee-guiling. I gave it a try, just to see what all the buzz was about, but I bee-lieve I'm going to arc-hive it for now. There is some bee-utiful writing, but it could have bee-n a honey of a story without so much bee lore.

Exhibit Bee
Sample dialogue (yes, dialogue) from page 43:

"Requeening the cross hive," I said. "Requeening is never my first choice. I usually try to hang a wave cloth near the flyway
...more
Cynthia
Bees for Beginners

This is a stunning book. It’s literary fiction that veers into murder mystery territory…and does both very well. Albert has lived next to Claire almost his entire life. They’ve lived in Orange County California from the time when it was mostly orange groves. Now it’s fraught with drug addicts and strip malls and outbursts of meaningless violence. Though the two are very different in their outlooks on life they bond in childhood over their love for beekeeping. Albert’s father pa
...more
Emily
A lovely, thoughtful book to read slowly and to savor the metaphor of the bees compared to our human world. I was puzzled by the reviewers who complained that the author went into too much detail about the bees and beekeeping, because that was essential to the story. Each chapter begins with a little explanation about the bees, and it often parallels the development of the plot in that chapter, or foreshadows an event that will soon unfold. Albert Honig is a life-long beekeeper, living in isolat ...more
Randy Briggs
This book was won in a First Reads contest at Goodreads.
I was immediately drawn into this book by the courtly formality of the language used by the narrator. Albert inadvertently discovers a crime perpetrated upon his neighbors and friends. What follows is a slowly unfolding and mesmerizing tale of secrets. Beautifully written, this novel was also full of philosophy and fascinating bee facts. The action builds in increments, with the slightest whiff of something amiss. It climbs quietly to a sat
...more
Pamela Barrett
From the first sentence, which I can’t quote because this is an advanced readers copy, I fell in love with this story. Like the perfect pitch of humming bees in an old California Orange grove at sunset after a long summer day, the main character Albert Honig, recalls the tragic deaths of his two neighbors, the Bee Ladies. Albert remembers how his family had introduced them to beekeeping when they were all children, and how the women were nicknamed the Bee Ladies because they sold honey and wax c ...more
Laura
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

I really wanted to love this book. I typically enjoy wandering through books about old people, complete with their memories, wounds and nostalgia. I don't mind a slower pace or diversion from the main topic as I know life - and the telling of stories- is rarely straightforward. And books about bees fascinate me.

So, why didn't this book enthrall me? There is some beautiful writing and an opportunity to learn about beekeeping, and even about
...more
Jim Mcfarlane
I can't describe this book better than NY Times best-selling author Elizabeth George did: “Telling the Bees is a marvel. With infinite compassion and perfect pitch, Peggy Hesketh has written an American classic: the inadvertent examination of a life unlived, told by the 80-year-old beekeeper who didn't live it. It's a wonderful read for anyone who loves a great and unforgettable story told well.”
Terri Jacobson
A good story but rather slow at times. I learned more about bees than I really care to know.
Agatha
A very beautiful, unassuming, quietly interesting little book. Albert Honig is an 80-something beekeeper who reflects back upon his life and the changes he has seen in his once-rural neighborhood in Orange County, CA. Albert grew up in a loving family next door to the Straussman sisters, whose upbringing always appeared to be a bit stranger, though Albert’s father always urged his mother (and the rest of them) to mind their own business and just leave well enough alone. Years later, after his ne ...more
Henderhouse
Do you want truth or do you want facts? Can one live in a honorable and honest and orderly way? These questions, along with issues of family and failures and forgiveness, are at the heart of this beautifully composed novel. August Honig is a man who has lived a very tightly controlled life, tending to his bees and reading philosophy. When a random act of violence occurs right next door, he cannot avoid telling the truth; but August cannot always reconcile the difference between "not lying" and t ...more
Laura
Such an odd mixture of murder mystery, quiet ruminations on a personal history and arcana on beekeeping. The problem is that the last part overwhelms the first two, detracting from what could at times be a Marilynne Robinson-esque book.

The mystery is essentially obscured by the author; Claire and Hilda, aka "The Bee Ladies" are found by Albert, their neighbor, bound, gagged and asphyxiated in their home. While close at one time, there was a falling out and haven't spoken in over 15 years. The d
...more
BooksnWool
This is a beautiful narrative that I would like to revisit in audiobook form while sitting out in the sun with my knitting. As Detective Grayson in the story learns, you have to have the patience to let this old man tell his story but when you do, you will be richly rewarded. I read it all in one go, unable to put it down until the full mystery had unfolded. In fact it did so without much dilly-dallying, despite being the story of a life.

You will certainly learn a lot about bees, which was a com
...more
Kelly Hager
This is a book that will require patience from the reader. It reveals its secrets, but it does so at a very leisurely pace.

I've been afraid of bees my entire life. And not just bees---wasps, yellowjackets...if it flies and can sting you, I'm afraid of it. But this book made me very curious about the bees. (Almost fond of them, but I don't really want to go that far. I still don't want them as roommates.)

And this book is full of facts about bees. Beekeeping has been Albert's life for...well, his
...more
Debdanz
I gave this book 70 pages and that was at least 50 more than it deserved. I read numerous 4 and 5 star reviews, and I can only wonder, "was I reading the same book??" I felt someone needed to remind this English teacher 1) write what you know and 2) don't use 25 words when 10 will do. Her protagonist was completely unbelievable as an 80 year old man- I might have believed her voice as a fussy 80 year old woman, but "he" was ridiculously unrealistic. Few if any of the conversations felt natural, ...more
Stephen
really enjoyed this book the story of albert honning and Claire straussman and the hives in their properties and friendship over the years and also the life of bees too. felt this book has many levels and quite simple in its plot and outline and how in life we read messages wrong and miss things
Christina
Wow. The narrative voice here is so well done and definitely the main strength of the novel. But also amazing is how little pieces of information throughout the book all come together perfectly at the end. Very beautiful writing.
Jessa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Knitme23
I think it's time for a different rating system: I keep running into books that aren't "I really liked" but are memorable and well-written. . . Well, maybe that's why we write the reviews! Anyway: Telling the Bees is a carefully crafted, well written, devastatingly sad book. I read it VERY fast, skipping a lot of the details of philosophy and bee lore to get to the heart of the story and to realize that yes, it is very sad: two families end, essentially, in the course of it. There are no pretty ...more
Amy
2 - Writing Style (The writing was engaging at times, but by the end I skimmed a lot just to get through it. The bee information just got way too long.)
2 - Kept me Awake at Night Reading (So slow to get anywhere. The story is told from the perspective of an old man and the entire time it drove me crazy because I felt the same way I feel when stuck behind an old person in line or on the road. Just. Go. Somewhere! Took me forever to make myself finish it.)
3 - Good Discussion Book (Maybe.)
4 - Viole
...more
Diane S.
3.5 This is a novel that will not appeal to everyone, as it is an in depth character study of three elderly people, who have many secrets. There is also an awful lot of information on beekeeping and though I realize the author is using the activity of the hive as a metaphor for the actions and relationships adherent in a family, I still found this to be a bit excessive. The character of Arthur, an old fashioned man, actually reminded me a little of Major Pettigrew for those who have read that no ...more
Jon Hainer
Released only on March 7th, I'm still just shaking my head at what a good read this book is. Great writing, can't put down pacing, terrific characters, deep emotional life, these are just some of the reasons you need to go out a buy a dozen copies and give them (all but one) to your loved ones so that you can share the experience. NOT TO BE MISSED!
Amber Stumpf

Beautifully written.
Kim Tallon
Albert Honig has spent his entire life caring for his bees, same as his father and grandfather had done before him. He has never married, never left his childhood home and seems to have had only one close friend—Claire Straussman, his neighbor and a fellow beekeeper. When Claire is killed during a burglary, Albert tries to help the detective piece together what happened. He recalls their years of friendship and the falling out that had separated them for a decade. And he discovers just how much ...more
Laura
Ho fatto come facevo una volta, quando non avevo nessun ebook reader e andavo in libreria a scuriosare le copertine per vedere se qualche libro mi attirava più di altri: sono uscita con questo titolo nel bel sacchettino della Hoepli.
L'ho letto in pochi giorni, ma con una lettura lenta, senza divorarlo, quasi che il ritmo pacifico, ma non scevro di emozioni e accadimenti, della vita del narratore m'avesse contagiato.

Il libro narra di Albert Honig, ormai ottantenne, alle prese con il tentativo di
...more
Jane
At the centre of this story is Albert Honig, an octogenarian bee-keeper. He lives in the same house he has lived all his life, and where as a young boy he learned the art and science of bee-keeping from his father, who had learned the same things from his own father.

Albert lives quietly, just tending his hives and reading the works of ancient philosophers, quite out of touch with the world around him.

Telling the Bees

But one day he realises that he hasn’t seen his neighbours, two elderly ladies,
...more
Ron
A FIVE STAR read! Very well plotted, beautiful language, the author's first novel and I don't know how she will top this effort! From Amazon: With echoes of The Remains of the Day, an elderly beekeeper looks back on his quiet life, and the secrets of a woman he never truly knew.

Albert Honig’s most constant companions have always been his bees. A never-married octogenarian, he makes a modest living as a beekeeper, as his father and his father’s father did before him. Deeply acquainted with the wo
...more
Rita
Telling the Bees is a beautifully written first book by Peggy Hesketh. The remarks about the bee lore inclusion don't take into account that the bee colony behavior has everything to do with the story being told.

Peggy creates such beautiful characters. The main narrator is Albert Honig (Honey, get it?) builds this story as a old man. His is reclusive, and philosopher, and a bee keeper, which he inherited from generations of beekeepers. So slow that he doesn't recognize love when it falls into hi
...more
Alison Smith
An unusual murder mystery - the crime takes second place to the backstory, small town America, a reclusive beekeeper's quiet life, nostalgia and the lore, fact and wisdom of beekeeping. The book reminded me strongly of Marilynne Robinson's brilliant Gilead - slow, measured and riveting. Read this book.
Elizabeth
I really wish there were half stars....this book is a 3.5 book for me. I enjoyed reading it and this book was just what I wanted after coming off of a 3 book (series) bender. Slow and sweet. Telling the Bees is an elderly man's reflection of his life and complex relationship with his next door neighbors whom he happens to find murdered. Definitely not a "who-dunnit" (although that mystery does unfold throughout the story) but rather a reminiscence of the roads taken and not taken, perceptions an ...more
Kate
This story, while predictable fairly early in the narration, is a wonderful sense of character. The author has given us an elderly, single, never-left-home gentleman with absolute precision, AND sympathetically. Sure he's a tightass, but he's very fully dimensioned, and I feel for him while I stand across the street and shake my head in wonder. Each other character brought up all through his minds eye is equally well felt. Plus, the story does draw you even as it telescopes its "mysteries", and ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Crooked Branch
  • The Abundance
  • A Nearly Perfect Copy
  • A Town of Empty Rooms
  • Airtight
  • The Secret of the Nightingale Palace
  • Kingdom Come:  A North Country Mystery
  • The Edge of the Earth
  • Heart Like Mine
  • The Grammarian
  • The Hope Factory
  • When She Was Gone
  • As Sweet as Honey
  • Pale Horses (Jade de Jong, #4)
  • The Movement of Stars
  • All This Talk of Love
  • The Fever Tree
  • The Honey Thief
3309459
Peggy Hesketh is a journalist and author and currently teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of California. Her short story ‘A Madness of Two’ was selected by Elizabeth George for inclusion in her anthology Two of the Deadliest. Telling the Bees is her first novel.
More about Peggy Hesketh...
Two of the Deadliest: New Tales of Lust, Greed, and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery

Share This Book

“You mean fiction?" I said.
"I mean flesh-and-blood stories about what happens outside your head, Albert. Stories that touch your heart.”
3 likes
More quotes…