An inspiring, up-close portrait of tending to a honeybee hive—a year of living dangerously—watching and capturing the wondrous, complex universe of honeybees and learning an altogether different way of being in the world.
"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
A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings begins as the author is entering her thirties and feeling disconnected in her life. Uneasy about her future and struggling to settle into her new house in Oxford with its own small garden, she is brought back to a time of accompanying a friend in London—a beekeeper—on his hive visits. And as a gesture of good fortune for her new life, she is given a colony of honeybees. According to folklore, a colony, freely given, brings good luck, and Helen Jules embarks on a rewarding, perilous journey of becoming a beekeeper.
Jukes writes about what it means to “keep” wild creatures; on how to live alongside beings whose laws and logic are so different from our own . . . She delves into the history of beekeeping and writes about discovering the ancient, haunting, sometimes disturbing relationship between keeper and bee, human and wild thing.
A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings is a book of observation, of the irrepressible wildness of these fascinating creatures, of the ways they seem to evade our categories each time we attempt to define them. Are they wild or domestic? Individual or collective? Is honey an animal product or is it plant-based? As the author’s colony grows, the questions that have, at first compelled her interest to fade away, and the inbetweenness, the unsettledness of honeybees call for a different kind of questioning, of consideration.
A subtle yet urgent mediation on uncertainty and hope, on solitude and friendship, on feelings of restlessness and on home; on how we might better know ourselves. A book that shows us how to be alert to the large and small creatures that flit between and among us and that urge us to learn from this vital force so necessary to be continuation of life on planet Earth.
About the Author
HELEN JUKES was born in London, England, and grew up in the Midlands. She studied at the University of Nottingham and Goldsmiths College. Jukes was among the founding members of the Bee Friendly Trust and tutors at the creative writing program at Oxford University. She lives in Derbyshire, England.
“Jukes shares insights on her decision to become a beekeeper . . . Throughout her journey, we see the importance of nature and the potentially devastating effects our separation from nature can lead to. Required reading . . . compelling.”
“Helen Jukes provides a fascinating glimpse into the secret world of these mysterious creatures upon whose relentless labor human life hinges.”
—Lisa Alther, author of Swan Song
“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
“A mesmeric, lovely, quietly powerful book.”
—Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
“Evocative . . . affecting . . . Readers will appreciate the candor and inviting openness of Jukes’s voice throughout this winning memoir.”
“So beautifully written, it’s become part of my life. Definitely one of my books of the year.”
—Fiona Talkington, BBC Radio 3
“A special kind of treasure.”
—Naomi Booth, author of Sealed
“A lovely, entirely personal journey into the very heart of the hive.”
—Michael Pye, author of The Edge of the World
“A book you can’t wait to read. It doesn’t happen often. Enchanting, real, and full of insight,”
“Luminously honest and affecting . . . Everyone should own this book, which moved and delighted me more than a book about insects had any right to . . . Jukes is a gloriously gifted writer and her book ought to become a key text of this bright moment in our history of nature writing.”
—Alex Preston, The Observer
“From its delicious title onwards, this debut about beekeeping is pure delight.”
—The Bookseller (editor’s pick)