The Beekeeper’s Promise, by Fiona Valpy, is a brilliant story, with a deep insight into the Nazi occupation of France during WW2. For more information on this historic tale, read on…
As you might already know, I recently got my Kindle back up and running again, and The Beekeeper’s Promise was my first Kindle read after years without it. Although I do love the novelty of reading from a book, it was a breathe of fresh air to scroll through the pages of Fiona Valpy’s novel electronically. It made a nice change.
So, yes I enjoyed having my Kindle to read on again. That said, did my first Kindle read, after years and years, live up to my expectations. Discover my thoughts on The Beekeeper’s Promise, right here, to see if it’s worth picking up from the Amazon store…
The Beekeeper’s Promise Characters
First and foremost, you’ll want to meet our recurring characters, so you can get an idea of what to expect. Throughout the story, we bounce back and forth between modern day France, and WW2-stricken France, which provides us with a rich tale of the area.
We also get a brief insight into the past of Abi, who we’ll discuss further here, through flashbacks to her previous abusive relationship. Here is a list and description of our main characters, who appear throughout the story:
- Abi Howes: our protagonist during the modern world. She is a sufferer of abuse, and ends up working in France over summer as an escape from reality.
- Eliane Martin: she is our main character from the WW2 period, who makes a real mark during the French effort against the Nazis during their occupation in the late 30s and early 40s.
- Marielle Martin: this is Eliane’s sister. She spends the majority of the story in Paris, working as a seamstress for the rich and famous, even during the war.
- Yves Martin: this is the brother of Eliane and Marielle. He ends up becoming a key part of the resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.
- Lisette Martin: this is the mother of our three Martin children. She is a brave woman who will do anything for her family.
- Gustav Martin: Gustav is the head of the Martin family, owning the mill in which they live. His main job is working as a miller, providing flour for the bakeries in the surrounding area.
- Mathieu Dubosq: Mathieu works in a nearby vineyard, and is the main love interest of Eliane throughout the story.
- Jacques Lemaitre: Jacques is an undercover Englishman, whose real name is Jack, who becomes a key element to the resistance and Eliane’s life.
- Monsieur le Comte: he is the owner of the chateau, where Eliane works, nearby the Martin Mill. The Nazis end up setting camp here for the majority of the war, and he plays an integral part in the resistance efforts.
- Madame Boin: this woman is the cook and housekeeper of le Chateau de Comte, who also gets involved in the resistance.
- Sara: this is the modern day owner of the mill, alongside her husband, which is now a beautiful residence for countryside weddings and events.
- Zac: Zac is the abusive ex-husband of Abi.
The Beekeeper’s Promise Plot
The book begins with Elaine, old and frail, tending to her bees at the mill. She knows she’s soon to pass, but simply goes about her usual business, as she has done for her whole life. This is the first glimpse we get into the world of Eliane Martin.
Then, we begin our modern day story, with Abi traipsing around the roads of Coulliac, in the boiling hot summer sun. She recalls how she got to be here; she was persuaded by a friend to join her at a French wellness and mindfulness camp. But, when her friend meets a man there, Abi finds herself being ditched.
After her abusive relationship with Zac – a relationship we revisit throughout the story, here and there – her anxiety is through the roof in a lot of intense and public situations. So, when it all gets a little too much doing these wellness activities, she finds herself running for the hills, quite literally. That said, after walking miles and miles, she becomes weary, and a storm begins to break.
As luck would have it, Sara is on her way back to the Mill, and offers her a lift home. Abi is hesitant, but obliges, considering the oncoming treacherous storm. She helps around the house a little, to pay her way, getting to know Sara and her husband. Then, with the weather as bad as it is, Abi ends up staying the night.
After one of the best sleeps she’d had in a long time, Sara invites Abi to stay at the Mill and work there over summer. They needed someone to work anyway, and Abi seemed like a fantastic fit. After her past ordeals, Abi is still recovering mentally and physically, and this place might just be her saving grace.
Meanwhile, as we dip into the story of Abi’s wonderful experiences at the Mill, we also engage in the story of Eliane, who once lived at the Mill during the 1900s. Eliane spends her childhood living and working there with her family, selling honey from her lovely bees, and enjoying the fruits of the bountiful Coulliac.
But, when WW2 breaks out, Coulliac becomes the border between France and occupied Nazi France. So, the area is invaded for the years to come, by soldiers who ensure minimal suspicious activity occurs in the area.
Little do the Germans know that Eliane’s family, as well as the Monsieur le Comte and a number of other villagers, are part of a great resistance against the Nazis. Eliane juggles love and lust, family woes, conflicts, and secrets, all along the way. Will they all survive their resisting efforts, or will this be their downfall?
As Abi is told the story of Eliane’s past life, we, the readers, are inaugrated within this world too. As Abi learns more, so do we, and it’s a great journey and privilege to hear the tale.
My Thoughts on the Beekeeper’s Promise, by Fiona Valpy
I have to say that this story really gripped me, from a few chapters in. It was a pretty easy read, and didn’t take me long to finish, which I think was a mixture of easy-to-read writing, and a tale I wanted to know more about.
I particularly loved the divergence between Abi’s story and Eliane’s story. It was nice to get to know two women who have been through a lot of strife, and have come out the other side of it all. Each story was also a nice intermission between the in-depth and emotional stories of each. This chopping and changing was very well done, and really lent itself to the story.
What really struck me the most was how true to reality the story of the French occupation was. I know little about the ins-and-outs of WW2 but, as a historian, I always love to learn more. The Massacre of Tulle, in 1944, was a particularly interesting storyline, and one which really took my breathe away. The way it was written left me gasping for air, and with tears in my eyes; I almost couldn’t believe it really happened.
There were definitely times when I lost interest a little, as the tale about the resistance did sometimes become a little samey. That said, the vivid descriptions of the Mill and the scenery, which made me feel at one with the nature I was reading the story in, were a treat.
Is it Worth a Read?
We’ve discussed the characters and the plot, as well as my thoughts, so I’m sure you’ve deducted the overall ending to this blog post… it’s a yes from me. Reading this in my back garden in the sunshine was a real treat. If you ever get another sunny few days, and have a Kindle, I would highly recommend downloading this story and giving it a go.
For me, I thought it was a lovely read, with a satisfying ending, but what did you think? Have you read The Beekeeper’s Promise, and have a similar or diverging view on the story? Or, perhaps you’ve been inspired to give it a read yourself now; whatever your thoughts, let me know down below!