Posted in Book Reviews

The Bee-Loud Glade by Steve Himmer

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When Finch loses his job marketing plastic plants on line – mainly by writing blogs as fictitious characters who have positive things to say about his company’s product – he goes into a downward spiral. He stops washing, going out or having any contact with the outside world. He ignores his landlord banging on his door, hiding until he gives up and leaves Finch to his nature programmes on TV and little else.

One night, a spam email offers him a solution to all his problems: an offer of a job. Finch replies with one word, “yes”, and the next morning a chauffeured limousine turns up to whisk him away to an entirely new way of life: as an ornamental hermit in the garden of a multi-millionaire.

The story is told from the view point of Finch as an old man, still living in his manufactured cave but under much changed circumstances, and in flashback, detailing how he came to the garden and what happened in the intervening years. When visitors appear in his garden one day, the first people he has seen or heard for years, they force Finch to consider life in his own personal Eden and what the future might hold for him.

Finch is a passive character for most of the book; he does what is asked of him, first in his marketing job and then as the sylvan slave of Mr Crane. He swims when he is told to, he meditates and performs Tai Chi at pre-determined times and from the day he enters the garden utters not another word. Normally, with such a passive main character, I would have given up on the book early on, but there is something about Finch and the oddness of his situation that kept me reading on.

I loved how he adapted to his new life and the challenges it brought him. There were times when the idea of escaping to an almost responsibility-free life in a warm climate was very, very appealing. And this is where the strength of the book lies. Steve Himmer has very skillfully created a character who, although he appears to have lost everything, has gained so much – the idyllic experience of an Eden, albeit without his Eve.

The story is told in the first person and we experience the garden through Finch’s eyes, adapting with him and learning to be grateful for a simple life where everything is provided by his garden and a benevolent dictator. Which of us hasn’t entertained such a thing when we are stressed by the demands and problems of modern life?

The Bee-Loud Glade is whimsical and written with a very light touch, but it has left me    longing for my own hermetic life. But maybe only at weekends.

You can buy The Bee-Loud Glade from Amazon.
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Writer, photographer, creative fantasist.

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