A fascinating, insightful and inspiring account of a novice beekeeper's year of keeping honeybees, which will appeal to readers of H is for Hawk and The Outrun.
Entering her thirties, Helen Jukes feels trapped in an urban grind of office politics and temporary addresses – disconnected, stressed. Struggling to settle into her latest job and home in Oxford, she realises she needs to effect a change if she's to create a meaningful life for herself, one that can accommodate comfort and labour and love. Then friends give her the gift of a colony of honeybees – according to folklore, bees freely given bring luck – and Helen embarks on her first full year of beekeeping. But what does it mean to 'keep' wild creatures? In learning about the bees, what can she learn of herself? And can travelling inside the hive free her outside it?
As Helen grapples with her role in the delicate, awe-inspiring ecosystem of the hive, the very act of keeping seems to open up new perspectives, deepen friendships old and new, and make her world come alive. A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings is at once a fascinating exploration of the honeybee and the hive, the practices of honey-gathering and the history of our observation of bees; and a beautifully wrought meditation on responsibility and care, on vulnerability and trust, on forging bonds and breaking new ground.
Helen Jukes is a writer, writing tutor and beekeeper. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including Caught by the River, BBC Wildlife, Resurgence, the Junket and LITRO. She tutors on the creative writing programme at Oxford University, and also works with the Bee Friendly Trust, a London-based charity founded by beekeeper Luke Dixon to promote our understanding of honeybees and help nurture sustainable habitats. She lives in the Wye Valley. www.helenjukes.com
"This book has found a special place in my heart. It's as strange, beautiful and unexpected, as precise and exquisite in its movings, as bees in a hive. I loved it"
– Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
"An intimate exploration of the heart and home, and a tantalising glimpse into an alien culture. A brave and delicate book, rich and fascinating"
– Nick Hunt, author of Where the Wild Winds Are
"A profound, funny and sometimes deeply moving book that describes a year of inner city bee keeping, while dancing between the history of bees and us and what it means to be human in our modern world"
– Julia Blackburn, author of Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske
"A mesmeric, lovely, quietly powerful book. A gentle but compelling account of the redemption that comes from relationship and attention"
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
"A very human story about the aliens gathering in her back garden – bees, fascinating but almost unknowable. Their wildness and her duty to them help open up a desk rat's uninspiring life to all the possibilities of love, care, connection and sheer wonder. It is a lovely, entirely personal journey into the very heart of the hive"
– Michael Pye
"I raced through this really terrific, down-to-earth read. The existential threat to our entire ecosystem posed by the problems facing bees can be hard to grasp, but Helen manages to make this a very personal, human story that, hopefully, might inspire others to action"
– Luke Turner, The Quietus