How does Sarah Crossan render trauma in her poetic novel, Here is the Beehive?
‘Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it. But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret.
How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach – Connor’s wife Rebecca. Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.’
Here is the Beehive, written by poet Sarah Crossan, is a beautiful novel which is unusually written in verse. Although the story is written in a poetic style, there is a semblance with Raymond Carver’s minimalist style, which is interesting given that Carver’s name actually appears in the story. That being said, Crossan’s narrative seems to inscribe a partial idea which tells us as much with omission as it does with inclusion. What I mean by this is that she leaves space for the reader to question the omissions, and fill those spaces with their own imagination and memories—a technique which is used in Haiku. This means that the reader experiences a full understanding of Ana’s traumatic experience of loss.
Another way that Crossan reproduces traumatic events for the protagonist, Ana, is by structuring the story with a bi-temporal narrative. As a reader, I found that I also experienced Ana’s trauma through the structure, because Ana’s past memories continuously interrupted her present, causing distress.
Though there are distressing elements, the story is sprinkled with delicate imagery: ‘In the raw dark garden the moonbeams light me up like I am on a stage. But I am not singing or dancing.’ For me, such prose is reminiscent of Anton Chekhov’s style, which is interesting given his influence on Carver. Like Chekhov and Carver, Crossan’s work reminds me of an impressionist painting—a Monet.
Much like a repetitive brush stroke, there are many repeated words and phrases which hint at something harrowing. The climatic twist, in act three, physically hurt my heart.
There is a tragic beauty to Here is the Beehive, and there are so many more thoughts that I could add, such as the sting in the title—a metaphor; or how there is an affinity with Max Porter’s story Grief is the Thing With Feathers. I’ll leave those thoughts for now though.
Butenina, E. (2018) ‘Raymond Carver as “The American Chekhov”’. Journal of Siberian Federal University 1 (11), 27-33
Clements, J. (2000) The Moon in the Pines. London: Frances Lincoln Limited
Crossan, S. (2020) Here is the Beehive. London: Bloomsbury Publishing plc