The Beekeeper’s Daughter

Written by Santa Montefiore
Review by Cynthia Slocum

The beekeeper’s daughter turns out to be two people – Grace Hamblin, raised in England, living on the estate of Lord and Lady Penselwood, where her father works as a beekeeper, and Trixie Valentine, Grace’s daughter, living on the Nantucket-like island of Tekanasset, in Massachusetts, where Grace keeps bees and gardens with Trixie and her husband, Freddie. Grace was raised in the 1930s, when the British class system was clearly defined and she could pine after the Penselwoods’ son Rufus, but marry her friend Freddie, who also worked the estate. Trixie has been raised in America, in the more permissive 1970s. Her mother doesn’t know that she smokes pot and sleeps with her boyfriend, British musician Jasper. When Jasper is called home to England to take over the family estate after the death of his brother, Trixie learns that she and her mother have much more in common than she thought.

Montefiore has captured two distinct worlds – estate life in England as the war begins and life for locals on a summer colony. Location and time meant Grace conformed and Trixie rebelled. When Trixie is older and on her own, she discovers a secret of Grace’s that takes her back to where her mother grew up and touches both of their pasts.

This is a gentle book, and I think that’s in part due to its two rather rustic settings. Current events are touched on, but the most violent of these, World War II, really occurs off the page, perhaps because both protagonists are women. The coincidences may strain credulity, but they reinforce the connection between mother and daughter. By the end, both women had earned their happy endings.