Bees, Honey History and Secrets

Receiving books through the post – whether gifts from friends, review copies or purchases, is always a high point, bringing intrigue and anticipation into the working week (and well as a child-like pleasure in ‘unwrapping presents’).  But this week’s book post was better than most – a bright and shiny review copy of Josephine Moon’s The Beekeeper’s Secret. It arrived with wonderful serendipity on the very day that The Republic of Slovenia had proposed to the United Nations as World Bee Day. Why Slovenia?  I hear you ask.  And ‘Why 20 May?’. In Slovenia, 20 May is remembered as the birthday of one Anton Janša (1734-1773). Considered the pioneer of modern beekeeping, Janša was the first teacher of apiculture at the Hapsburg court in Vienna.  He wrote two books on bee-keeping – Discussion on Bee-keeping (1771) and A Full Guide to Bee-keeping (1775) After his death, the Empress Maria Theresa issued a decree obliging all teachers of apiculture to read and use his books. Can it be co-incidence that the central character in Moon’s The Beekeeper’s Secret is also called Maria?   My review copy (from Allen & Unwin – thank you) came with a lovely tin of beeswax lip balm and a wee pot of English Wildflower honey – so I will read the book while eating honeyed toast through beeswaxed lips (and with a good slug of tea).  I rarely read family sagas or romantic fiction but somehow I’m really looking forward to this one.


Josephine Moon’s The Beekeeper’s Secret will be published in paperback on 7 July 2016 by Allen & Unwin. Watch out for a review here on BookAddiction before that.

Short texts – Jean de la Fontaine’s The World is Full of Foolish Men

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I’m currently listening to ‘A Days Read‘, a series of lectures from Professor Arnold Weinstein, Professor Emily Allen and Professor Grant L Voth on short stories and other texts, and how they can be exhilarating  and expand the ways you see the world around you. These lectures are so insightful and inspiring that I’m resolved to read more short texts. So early this week I picked up a copy of Jean de la Fontaine’s The World is Full of Foolish Men (available for a very reasonable couple of quid in Penguin’s Little Black Classics series) from Foyles at Waterloo Station.  This really is taking ‘short’ to the extreme – many of the fables and poems are less than a page (and the pages are quite small at that!).

Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was a French fablist and poet whose works are ranked among masterpieces of world literature. His first volume appeared when the author was 47 and included some 240 poems and timeless stories of countryfolk, heroes from Greek mythology, and familiar beasts from the fables of Aesop.  This slim volume contains 26 of those and I chose it as a ‘taster’.

The World is Full of Foolish Men promises sparkling fables of lions and foxes and cicadas coming together to expose the foibles of 17th century French society and includes some charmingly hilarious cartoon engravings as illustrations.

One of the illustrations, this one by Charles Doyle, in The World of Full of Foolish Men. Those in the penguin edition are in black and white and lack some of the magical detail

Revisiting the wild Shropshire countryside of childhood memory


With a few minutes to kill in Epsom before catching a train I browsed the books in charity shop close to the station and stumbled across a copy of Mary Webb’s Precious Bane.  Webb, whom John Buchan described as capturing ‘the soul of nature in words’ and I share a home county – Shropshire, and most of her works are set there. She was also one of my father’s favourite writers.  And yet I’ve never read a word she wrote.  Time to put that right!  I’m thinking this may be the adult equivalent of reading Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine series, also focussed on south Shropshire, which I gobbled through several times as a child.  Even better, it’s in the Virago Modern Classics series which I try, spasmodically, to collect.

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and started way back in 2012 to help booklovers and readers celebrate the arrival of new and exciting books in their homes and on their bookshelves. But I owe my inspiration for using this meme to the lovely Hayley at Rather Too Fond of Books.  The BookAddict’s weekly posts under this heading may be a little different in that (a) they are not likely to be weekly, and (b) they are certain not to be exhaustive.  I also run a small second hand bookshop selling beautiful, unusual, vintage and quirky books which means some weeks literally hundreds of books arrive all at once!