Here Is The Beehive By Sarah Crossan – A Review

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 20th August 2020

I’d never read any Sarah Crossan before as she usually writes YA novels and I don’t read YA. so when Here Is The Beehive dropped unexpectedly through my letterbox I was excited to see it is Sarah Crossan’s first adult fiction novel (I was also blown away by how stunning that cover is!).

Here Is The Beehive tells the story of Ana and Connor, each married with children and conducting a 3 year extramarital affair.

However, the most tragic event has happened and Connor has died, plunging Ana into unknown territory when it comes to grieving for someone you love but nobody around you knows about.

Ana and Connor meet when he becomes a client of Ana’s and asks her to draw up his last will and testament. This meeting and initial spark opens up a tentative (albeit professional at first) relationship between them. In assisting Connor with the drawing up of his will, Ana finds out about his wife Rebecca and their three young sons.

Further meetings between the couple are engineered and they become ever closer until their emotions and physical attraction spill over and their affair begins.

When Connor dies, Ana is shocked to her core and feels like she doesn’t have an outlet for the tremendous weight of the grief she is carrying. She has nobody to talk to about the intense and complex love she had for Connor, and nobody to support her in her loss.

When Rebecca asks Ana to deal with Connor’s will after his shocking death, Ana uses this as an opportunity to become close to Rebecca and the three boys she shared with Connor. She infiltrates their lives, little by little under the guise of helping Rebecca in her grief and it being ‘all part of the service’. She so desperately wants to find out more about the woman Connor chose to stay with over her.

But just how close to Connors private family life can she get? And what does this mean for her own family?

Ana is a fascinating character, not entirely likeable given that she’s committing adultery and risking the happiness of not only herself but her husband and young children. However, I could understand how frustrated, abandoned and alone she must have felt when Connor was taken from her so suddenly with no closure and no one for her to speak to about it.

In novels portraying adultery we quite often side with the betrayed wife and vilify ‘the other woman’, however in this case it’s not so black and white. Not for me anyway.

Ana feels trapped and has an obsessive need to find out from any source possible, in any way possible, how Connor really felt about her. Their relationship was not perfect and they had many overwhelming feelings of guilt which ultimately broke them up quite a few times, but they always came back together. She almost has to justify their time together and retrospectively analyse their relationship and Connor’s feelings for her knowing that she will now never know for sure.

It is not a relationship that is looked back on fondly through rose tinted glasses. It is a warts and all union which is put through the rigours of real life. It is a relationship laid bare to the grim realities and imperfections of life. A relationship you can’t look away from.

We plan for death, make sensible decisions while gorging on life. But no one intends to die. When you wondered into my office three years ago, you never thought I would have to confront your family’s grief, or my own..

This is a novel written in verse and is beautifully lyrical. Sarah Crossan’s writing draws you in so effortlessly and so completely, I read this book in one session and was utterly absorbed throughout.

This is a story of love, grief and the need to validate feelings. It’s one of those books that plays on your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. It throws up all sorts of questions, questions which will most likely never have any answers.

I loved it and I’m sure it will appear on my best books of the year list at the end of this year and OF COURSE it has been neatly slotted onto my Forever Shelf.

Thank you so much as always to the publisher for my copy for review.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx


The Sound Mirror by Heidi James – A Review

Publisher: Bluemoose

Publication Date: 13th August 2020

If I tell you that The Sound Mirror by Heidi James was my first Heidi James book and I’ve since gone on to buy (and read) more, do you get some sense of whether I enjoyed this book?

Not only is Heidi a lovely, engaging presence on Twitter, she is a stunning author who confidently reels you in and just ‘gets it’. I hope you know what I mean by that!

The Sound Mirror opens with Tamara (in the present day) and this bold firecracker of a sentence:

She is going to kill her mother today. But she’s no monster. She’s not the villain.

Yep. I was hooked.

We go on to discover that ‘killing’ of Tamara’s mother is not as clear cut as it may initially seem. In the first brief chapter we also get a glimpse of the past relationship between Tamara and her mother, a glimpse which happens to speak volumes.

We then switch narrative to Claire and move from the present day to the Second World War when Claire, a Londoner from an Italian family is evacuated to Wales along with two of her siblings. From here we watch her grow up and see her navigate the tricky life of a young female from a large family who is thrust into the role of mother and nurturer at an early age out of necessity.

We also meet the final character in our triumvirate of fascinating women, Ada. An Anglo-Indian girl who moves back to England when India gains independence. Being lighter skinned she feels she can easily fit into life in England. However, being blessed with good looks means she is quite often seen as a possession under the male gaze.

Each of these strong female voices is as crystal clear and distinct as they can possibly be. There are no doubts as to who’s narrative you are with and I found that I enjoyed reading each of them equally, which isn’t always the case when you’re hearing from multiple voices.

Ada has a mostly successful life from the outside to all intents and purposes but she often struggles with the notion of being caught between two worlds and trying to find her place. Claire for her part is forced to mature before her time, thrust into the role of mother and nurturer way before she ever had children of her own. Through Tamara’s story we catch glimpses of her childhood and adolescence and piece together how she has become an angry young woman.

As each of the women’s narratives moved along it wasn’t initially clear what the links (if any) were between them. As I was reading I was trying to anticipate what the connection between the women could possibly be but I also found myself thinking that if these separate narratives stayed separate and were joined only by an over arcing theme of motherhood and identity I’d have still been as immersed in the book.

I will say now that there is a link between the women and when it all dropped into place the almost choral voice of what I had felt were ‘mothers’ narrating Tamara’s chapters became crystal clear.

This book perfectly examines a subject which I’ve always been fascinated by and particularly drawn to, motherhood and how mistakes are made which then go on to shape future generations. Just how far reaching are the reverberations of our actions, large or small.

Heidi James expertly weaves these women’s lives together to form a patchwork of motherhood and the changing roles and aspirations of women over the ever changing decades. Her writing is super sharp, vivid and beautiful. She doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and we get the warts and all aspects of real life which I absolutely adored.

All three of these women’s voices will remain with you long after you have finished reading.

As I said at the start, I have since gone on to read more of Heidi James work and she is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. It’s such a thrill to discover someone who you feel is writing for you. Heidi James could produce anything in the future and I will read it (and no doubt love it!).

Please do pick up a copy of The Sound Mirror. You won’t regret it. I promise.


You could keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter account over at @bookishchat tomorrow (Friday 11th Sept) for a super special giveaway…….I shall say no more.

Thank you to Heidi and Bluemoose for sending me a copy of The Sound Mirror. It’s been a real pleasure and privilege to read it.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookishchat xxx

The Harpy by Megan Hunter – A Review

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 3rd September 2020

I’m writing this review having just closed this book around 5 minutes ago. It’s always a good sign that I adored a book if I start writing the review straight away whilst the excitement for it is still fizzing in my veins!

I featured The Harpy by Megan Hunter in my Most Anticipated Books Of 2020 post and boy was I right to! (Pats self on the back). At the time of writing that blog post I couldn’t find an image of the cover but not long after I saw a tweet from Camilla Elworthy showing the absolutely stunning cover design and my excitement for this book ramped up a pace! I just CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT IT! It’s beautiful.

I should also just mention that I am writing this post on a dark and miserable January evening knowing full well that I won’t be publishing it until much nearer to publication. However when this book dropped through my letterbox I just had to read it straight away. I ain’t about that ‘wait until nearer the time’ life! Delayed gratification is not my vibe.

The Harpy opens with Lucy discovering that her husband Jake has been having an affair with one of his work colleagues, Vanessa. Lucy receives a telephone call from Vanessa’s husband who drops the bombshell on Lucy and turns her life completely on its head.

When Lucy confronts Jake he admits to it and tells her the relationship was just about sex and that he is going to end it for the sake of Lucy and their two young sons.

When Lucy accidentally scratches Jake’s arm during their conversation, Luke makes the suggestion that maybe Lucy should hurt him three times as retribution for his fling.

It is agreed that they will stay together but Lucy has the power to hurt Jake in any way she sees fit at any point she wants, with absolutely no prior warning. However, she can only do this a maximum of 3 times. After this the ‘score’ will be considered settled and they will move on with their lives together.

What follows on from here is Lucy’s attempts at dealing her unfaithful husband as much pain as he has caused her. She battles to keep the home life of their two young boys on as even a keel as possible whilst trying to work from home and battle the demons inside her head centering around her husbands betrayal.

With each of the punishments meted out, the power shifts almost imperceptibly between the two of them with Lucy struggling to gain enough satisfaction from each of the punishments she doles out.

You may think that The Harpy is retelling a trope which has been done to death. Woman discovers husband is having an affair, woman is upset, husband vows to end it, they stay together for the sake of the kids etc etc

BUT you’d be totally and utterly incorrect and I’ll tell you why…..

Interspersed between the short sharp contemporary chapters, Lucy is slowly revealed as having had a fascination with Harpies from being quite young. The dictionary definition of a ‘Harpy’ is:


a rapacious monster described as having a woman’s head and body and a bird’s wings and claws or depicted as a bird of prey with a woman’s face.

The book gives us this passage:

When I was a child, there was a book – out of print now, expensive – about a unicorn who went into the sea and became a narwhal. The book had beautiful illustrations, dark blue seas, peach pale evening skies. But the picture I remembered best was of the harpies: dark shadows, birds with women’s faces, who came down to torture the unicorn, to make him suffer. I asked my mother what a harpy was; she told me that they punish men, for the things they do.

As Lucy quietly and almost stoicly deals with this huge devastations and betrayal, there are no histrionics. She is vengeful yet calmly so, which in tern lends the narrative a sinister edge. Her marriage has been ripped apart and yet she can’t fathom ever leaving Jake, instead finding herself metamorphosing into a harpie’s way of thinking. Dishing out punishment in vengeful acts against a person who has utterly betrayed her.

Megan Hunter’s writing is stunningly beautiful and lyrical with an undercurrent of dread pulsing right through it. This is a quietly dark novel which bubbles with tension and takes you on a journey deeper and deeper into the psyche of a woman scorned.

There is nothing more fascinating to me than an exploration of a fractured marriage and the quiet rage of women. This is an utterly compelling novel which will for sure be on my books of the year list come December.

The ending is open to interpretation which I absolutely adored. Nothing is set in stone or tied up neatly in a bow. Bloody brilliant!

Megan Hunter has absolutely nailed it with this study of love, betrayal and retribution and The Harpy will be a book I continue to recommend for a long time to come.

As always thank you to the publisher for my review copy.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx