Monday, 8 August 2016

Literary Synaesthesia: The Honey Month

I have recently finished reading The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar, and I am ashamed to say it has been on my To Be Read list ever since it was first published…six years ago. Well, I can hand on heart say that if it has been sitting in your wish list, TBR list, whatever-you-want-to-call-it list, this is the book you need to jump straight to the top and pick up next.

They say
she likes to suck peaches. Not eat them, suck them,
tilt her head back and let the juice drip
sticky down her chin, before licking, sucking,
swallowing the sunshine of it down… 
From Day 2 ~ Peach Creamed Honey

Early followers of my blog will recall it used to go by a different name: the honey coloured view. At the time I never went into too much detail as to why I called it this, but suffice it to say it was a nod to my intrigue of and deep respect for the great pollinators of the world and the truly magical product of their work. 

My aunt is a beekeeper, as was her father, my grandfather, and although I never did learn the ins and outs of the practical work involved, I still seemed to learn something of the bees' magic from the very way she spoke about them, their lives, the drama in her hives. And when we tasted her honey…it was like tasting the stories she had told in a sweet, crystalline form. 

We are not the closest of families - growing up, and even now, an entire year or more can go by without seeing aunts and uncles and cousins - and yet, somehow, when I think of bees and honey it calls up a nostalgic sense of family to me. Whether that is a family I know, or one I imagine, I do not know.

When [the bees] surround her, she breathes in the vibration of their bodies, exhales music, breathes it in again. They crown and armour her, they hide her while she dissolves into a joy too keen for eyes that come in simple pairs, eyes that could not possibly appreciate the peace, the thrill, the trembling, the way those thousand bodies do. They sing her aching silence out, they chime their wings like champagne flutes, they pat her cheeks and lashes with more love than is commonly thought to be possible… 
From Day 24 ~ Apricot Creamed Honey

And I sense the same feeling radiating off the pages of The Honey Month; the words both scream and whisper of the complexity of relationships and a deep sense of longing. El-Mohtar enlivens all the senses in her short stories and poems after sharing her practical, sensory evaluation of the honey she is sampling; taste, smell, texture. There isn't a single word in this book that isn't deeply evocative and stirs you at your core.

Amal El-Mohtar/Papaveria Press

The morning, she would say, always tastes of spring, no matter what the season. The winter sun tastes of wet bark and sticky buds when it first rises; at noon it tastes of spun sugar, at evening it tastes of bay leaves and soup. The fall morning tastes of wet grass remembering the sun, the summer morning tastes of lilacs and the waking of bees. And spring mornings taste of honeydew honey, and spring. 
From Day 19 ~ Honeydew Honey 

The Honey Month is published by Papaveria Press and available to buy online from various stores.

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