A Recipe for Bees


311 pages
ISBN 0-676-97100-8
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is also the
author of The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women’s Lives, Kurlek, and
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Hom


In a novel rich with the ways and wonders of humans and bees, Gail
Anderson-Dargatz portrays the life, death, and resurrection of a most
unusual marriage.

Augusta, her feisty heroine, is old but still has a green thumb and the
lively imagination she believes her husband lacks. When Augusta catches
sight of herself in a mirror, she sees an “ aging queen bee, wings
tattered and legs crippled from years of life inside the hive; her
usefulness was all but over.”

The rural worlds of northern British Columbia and of Vancouver Island
just north of Victoria evoke a tumble of images that tug at our senses
and tickle the imagination. There is a hazelnut tree “too lanky” to
produce nuts, and trembling aspens with leaves “now scattered like
spilled pennies.” There are ripe berries that stained hands purple and
“tasted of heaven.” The bee lore woven through the novel obviously
fascinates Anderson-Dargatz. The reader gradually comes to see the
parallels with human nature and behavior. There are robber bees, foreign
workers laden with pollen and nectar, and guard bees who “[aren’t]
above accepting bribes.”

A Recipe for Bees, which was shortlisted for the 1998 Giller Prize, is
a sensuous, richly textured novel buzzing with passion, pain, and
reconciliation. One reviewer called the author’s award-winning first
novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning, “Pacific Northwest Gothic.”
We inhabit something of the same territory in Anderson-Dargatz’s
second novel, but the tone is lighter.


Anderson-Dargatz, Gail., “A Recipe for Bees,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/2815.