Honeybee by Craig Silvey
Originally, Craig Silvey wanted to be a palaeontologist, but by the time he was nineteen years old he had published his first novel, Rhubarb, to great acclaim. Then, of course, he wrote Jasper Jones and now, eleven years later, we have Honeybee. But, if we consider Silvey’s first love of discovering and digging and reflecting on the past, and bundle all of that passionate need for answers with his innate ability to tell stories, well, then we understand why the results are so brilliant.
Silvey is an author who wants the reader to understand that each story is larger than its own self. Each character in his work carries the weight of the past, holds history in their heart and considers the ramifications of being present against the backdrop of reality. We saw it especially with Jasper Jones, and now, as a treat to all of us who have suffered through this year, we have Honeybee.
The novel centres on fourteen-year-old Sam, who is in search of a home. Sam meets old and tired Vic late one night on a bridge, as they both contemplate suicide. They save one another, but not without considerable vulnerability and, indeed, empathy. Honeybee is about identity, and about elements of masculinity being ostracised; or, at least, definitions of masculinity being caught, if you like, at a type of crossroads. The novel hosts a roll call of characters with diverse backgrounds. Many of these are men we know.
This is a big, brave, wonderful novel. It will not disappoint fans of Jasper Jones, but it will also make you reflect on what it means to have a moral compass, what it means to be brave and how we, as a community, can make Australia a true place of freedom. We have so far to go. Reading this tremendous novel will help.