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The Beekeeper’s Daughter includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Santa Montefiore. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
Massachusetts, 1973: Beautiful, impetuous Trixie is in love with Jasper, who is wild and romantic, a singer in a band on the brink of stardom. Then tragedy strikes and he must return to his home in England, promising to come back to Trixie if only she will wait for him.
England, 1933: Grace is growing up on a beautiful rural estate. The only child of the beekeeper, she knows her place and her future until her father dies, leaving her bereft and alone. Alone, that is, except for the man she loves, whom she knows she can never have.
Weighed down by memories, unaware of the secrets that bind them, mother and daughter now both search for lost love. To find what they are longing for they must confront the past and unravel the lies told long ago.
A moving mother-daughter story, The Beekeeper’s Daughter
is an engrossing tale of duty and class, past secrets, and enduring love. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The Beekeeper’s Daughter
opens with Rudyard Kipling’s “The Bee-Boy’s Song.” Why do you think Santa Montefiore chose to begin the book with this poem? How does it relate to the story? Discuss how bees play a major role throughout the book.
2. In the beginning of The Beekeeper’s Daughter
, Belle Barlett, Evelyn Durlacher, Sally Pearson and Blythe Westrup are playing bridge at the golf course and gossiping about Trixie Valentine and Suzie Redford going off with a band for the weekend. Why do you think the women found this so scandalous?
3. What do you make of Big and her friendship with Grace? Does Big give Grace good advice? Discuss Big’s role in the lives of the Valentines.
4. Are her Trixie’s parents right to be concerned about her relationship with Jasper? Do you think their affair is true love or a summer fling? Why is Grace so protective of her daughter’s heart?
5. Grace has a close relationship with her father, Arthur. How has he influenced her? Do you think she would have married Freddie without his influence?
6. When Grace is fourteen, she meets Rufus Duncliffe, son and heir of the Marquess of Penselwood. Grace places a bee on Rufus and later Freddie. Describe how Rufus and Freddie react. Who do you think is better suited for Grace? Who does Grace truly love?
7. The Beekeeper’s Daughter
follows two story lines—Grace’s and Trixie’s. Were you drawn to one more than the other? How are Grace and Trixie similar? How are they different?
8. When Jasper’s brother dies in a car accident, he must return to England. Jasper asks Trixie to wait for him. Grace cries when Trixie tells her the news, but for a different reason than Trixie thinks. Discuss why Grace reacts the ways she does?
9. Trixie never loved another man after Jasper. What qualities do you think Jasper possesses that Trixie never found in another man? Do you think it was typical in that time for a woman to entirely focused on her career and not marry?
10. Is there a theme to each part of the book? Was this an effective way to tell the story? Why or why not?
12. Duty comes up in several ways during the course of the novel. Big tells Grace, “It’s your duty as a wife to stand by his side on all matters.” To which Grace replies, “I do hate that word.” Discuss what duty to means to Grace, Rufus, Freddie, and Jasper. Has a sense of duty positively or negatively affected their lives?
14. When Grace is tending to her bees she often feels a presence. On her wedding day, Grace thinks she sees her mother. Where else do ghosts or spirits make an appearance in the novel? Discuss the importance of spirits in the novel.
15. We learn that Grace is dying from an inoperable brain tumor. Is the author drawing a connection between one’s health and avoiding the past?
16. Grace and Freddie are both holding on to the past and harboring secrets. Why do you think they keep their secrets for so long? Are there other characters with hidden pasts?
17. Grace’s and Trixie’s pasts collide in a surprising twist. What drives Trixie to uncover her mother’s past? How does Trixie confront her own past in the process?
18. Love is a major theme in the novel: romantic love, familial love, first love, lost love. Is it possible to be in love with two people at the same time? Do you think the characters in the book find the love they want? Enhance Your Book Club
1. In The Beekeeper’s Daughter
, we meet various ranks of British nobility: a marquess and marchioness, an earl and lady. Were you familiar with hierarchy of the titles? Do a little research on British peers. Visit http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/resources/titles-and-orders-of-precedence/.
2. Have a honey tasting at you book club meeting. You can find some recipes at http://www.marthastewart.com/275155/sweet-and-savory-honey-recipes. Visit www.honey.com to learn more about honey, find local honey in your area, and more.
3. Grace writes to Freddie and Rufus while they are away during the Second World War. Visit WWII Letters: Actual Letters Written During WWII (www.WWIIletters.blogspot.com) or learn more about letter writing during the war at Smithsonian National Postal Museum (www.postalmuseum.si.edu/victorymail/letter). A Conversation with Santa Montefiore Bees play a major role in the story. How did you get interested in bees? What research did you do?
The book was inspired by a swarm of bees that settled on the side of my cottage in Hampshire a few summers ago. I thought The Beekeeper’s Cottage
sounded like a good title, so I began to weave a story around them. My daughter, when she was little, used to put bumblebees on her arm and let them walk up it—she never got stung, but it used to make me very nervous. I did a lot of research on bees. I was given a lovely book about them and used the Internet. I also bumped into a woman at my son’s football match, who happened to have been a beekeeper’s daughter during World War II. Quite a coincidence (or not! I like to think the universe was helping me out there!). You open the novel with a poem about bees. Were you familiar with this poem before you wrote The Beekeeper’s Daughter?
No, this poem was in a bee book I was given. I thought it was very sweet so I put it at the front of the book. I think the bees in my novel would have been fascinated by all the goings-on! Secrets seem to be a theme you like to explore in your novels. What draws you write about secrets?
Secrets are fascinating. It’s human nature to love mysteries. If there were no secrets, there’d be no novels!—and life would be very dull! Flowers often make appearances in your books. In The Beekeeper’s Daughter, Grace is an acclaimed landscape gardener. Are you? Do you enjoy gardens?
I am passionate about nature. I am at my happiest in beautiful places like forests, woods, beaches, and mountains. I think we all are. That still, silent, eternal part of nature resonates with the still, silent eternal part of us and connects us to our true natures beyond ego. When I’m in nature, all the petty worries I have dissolve and I ponder the big questions. I use nature a lot in my novels to help my characters evolve on a spiritual level. Writing about nature from my office in London makes me feel good. It’s like a meditation. If I can’t be in it, I’ll imagine that I am! I hope it uplifts or touches my readers, too. This is your first novel set in America. What drew you to set this one in New England?
I love America, although sadly I don’t know it well. I wanted that part of the novel to be based there, but was limited to where in America I could base it. I had to choose somewhere I knew well enough to write about with authenticity. Hence Nantucket because I have been there and adored it. I renamed it Tekanasset because I wanted to make it my own—you’d be surprised how many people write in telling me I’m wrong about things if I write about real places. This way I can invent everything and have total freedom. I bought a beautiful coffee-table book about Nantucket to inspire me. If I could buy a house anywhere, I think I’d buy a beach house there! Part of the story takes place during World War II. Did you learn anything new about that time that you were compelled to include in the novel?
Research always teaches me new things. However, I think we all know so much about that period, thanks to movies and television, that I didn’t learn anything extraordinary. I do think that era is wonderful for romance—the fact that communication was so hard and people’s sense of duty to their families, religion, and class were very strong. It gives me a lot to work with. Grace and Trixie are very independent women and they love so fiercely. Was it important to you to create two strong women as the main characters?
Absolutely. It’s fun writing about women with character; after all, character is what drives my books. Characters have to be interesting, entertaining, and complex. The reader has to believe in them and they have to evolve throughout the story. Grace and Trixie gave me such pleasure. Grace and Rufus’s affair doesn’t have a resolution. If Rufus could have one more chance to see Grace, what do you think he would say to her?
I think he’d tell her that he loved her and that he never stopped loving her. Poor Rufus. Each character seems to get a happy ending but him. He dies from a broken heart. Do you think this is something that is truly possible?
I know it’s possible. Don’t we read all the time of couples who die so quickly one after the other. Life was unbearable for Rufus without Grace and I think he just pined. I couldn’t give everyone happy endings. Life isn’t like that—and I wanted Freddie to come out of the shadows. I wanted his
love to be the light that shone out at the end of the book. When I was thinking of my plot I consulted with my uncle, who was in the army and knows a lot about military history. He told me one thing which changed the whole course of the book and that is why I dedicated it to him. He said; Freddie comes good. Freddie wasn’t going to come good. But after he said that, I thought about how I might make that happen. It changed the whole emphasis for me and I think, made the story more compelling. What do you hope readers will take away from The Beekeeper’s Daughter?
I only ever wish two things for my readers: to feel warm in their hearts and to love and accept love wholeheartedly. You’ve written several novels. Where do you find your inspiration? Where will you take us next?
I’m now writing my sixteenth novel. (My first four have yet to be published in the United States.) The next one is the first of a trilogy following three women in southern Ireland who are all born in 1910. Set around a castle, it’s much more dramatic than anything I have ever written before because it takes my characters through the First World War and the War of Independence. It also has a strong spiritual thread. I’m very excited about it. I’m already on Part II.