Originally published: August 2020
Author: Sarah Crossan
Published by: Bloomsbury
Length: 272 pages
Reading dates: 12-15 September 2020
I have been a huge fan of Sarah Crossan’s young adult books since 2017, when I went along to a Waterstones event with a friend to hear her talk with Brian Conaghan about how they wrote We Come Apart together. I read the wonderful One just before the event and I was blown away. Written for older teenagers, her work is mostly written in verse, which make her books perfect for reluctant readers as they are easily accessible, yet write about quite hard hitting subjects.
Here is the Beehive is her first adult book and is also written in verse. It tells the story of Ana and Connor who have been having an affair for three years. Ana is a solicitor and meets Connor when he visits her on a legal matter. She spots him in a bar some time later and they get talking and so embark on an affair – getting together in hotel rooms and coffee shops, they build a world for just the two of them, away from their spouses and children.
The book begins when she finds out that Connor has died in a tragic accident. They were on a break and she finds out purely by accident when Connor’s wife Rebecca calls her in a legal capacity to discuss his will. Ana is utterly alone in her grief – no-one else knew about the affair so Ana has to try and get on with her life as if nothing has happened.
How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out?
Ana’s solution is to end up befriending Rebecca. She meets her to discuss Connor’s will then offers to go to their house to get all the paperwork together that they need. Extending the hand of friendship to the unsuspecting Rebecca, she is desperate for any snippets of their lives that she can discover.
Ana isn’t a very likeable protagonist – I always find it hard to have sympathy for someone who has had an affair and despite her devastation of the loss of Connor, she still isn’t a sympathetic figure. The books flits back and forwards in time to before and after Connor’s death. We hear about the affair from Ana’s point of view – about the early thrill of their forbidden relationship and the jealously that springs up between Ana and Connor as they realise their lives are still going on with their spouses. They still have sex with their partners, they still go on holiday. We can see from the outside how badly she treats her husband, especially after Connor’s death when she is so engrossed in her grief that she doesn’t even pretend to be a caring wife anymore.
It is unusual to read a book where an affair is the central theme. Affairs never end well and it was an uncomfortable book to read as I couldn’t help but judge Ana and Connor. But the devastation Ana feels is portrayed brilliantly and there is a lot of emotion, I could really feel what Ana was feeling. Crossan’s writing is so clever – she can tell a story so effectively in far fewer words than a normal novel but her writing also packs an emotional punch. An engrossing story, uncomfortable to read but layered and memorable and I highly recommend it.
About the author:
Sarah Crossan has lived in Dublin, London and New York, and now lives in Hertfordshire. She graduated with a degree in philosophy and literature before training as an English and drama teacher at Cambridge University. Since completing a masters in creative writing, she has been working to promote creative writing in schools. The Weight of Water and Apple and Rain were both shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. In 2016, Sarah won the CILIP Carnegie Medal as well as the YA Book Prize, the CBI Book of the Year award and the CLiPPA Poetry Award for her novel, One.