Book Reviews

Review: The Bumblebee Flies Anyway

Since we moved into the house we currently live in, I’ve had more of an interest in gardening than ever before. I’ve got an array of kitchen herbs, pots of roses, two deeply rebellious buddleias, and thanks to my in-laws, a new row of tomato plants! As we rent, a lot of our plants are in pots on the patio, and so I was very interested to read Kate Bradbury’s book about rescuing a small paved garden. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.



Book: The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury

Read before? No

Ownership: e-ARC provided by Netgalley for fair review.

The first thing I noticed about this book is that Kate has a very unique writing style. This reads like a diary, almost, with a lot of run-on sentences and half-formed thoughts. It’s beautiful to read, once you get used to it. Her descriptions of the garden are extremely evocative, from the sunless, unloved little concrete box she buys, to the life-filled, colourful garden she creates – it feels as if you can see it at each stage. I wish there had been pictures, but in a way, I can see why there aren’t, as the beauty of the garden lies in its heart and its soul, not in any particular photo.

I loved reading about the patience and frustrations of planting the garden from scratch – as a beginner gardener myself, it’s very difficult waiting for results when you know you may have to wait years to see things grow! I’ve been growing a honeysuckle for three years, and this is the first year it’s had more than one flower on it, so I particularly warmed to Kate’s attempt to cultivate her honeysuckle cuttings.

I also found the description of the bird-life that she saw to be very informative – I had no idea about a lot of the habits she described, so that was lovely. A lot of her reminiscences about her childhood experience of nature are bittersweet, and there’s a real sadness in the way she discusses the decline of spaces for wildlife, and the decline of the wildlife itself. You can tell that she feels this passionately (though I couldn’t understand why, if city life depresses her so much, she didn’t move to the countryside).

Unfortunately, the second half of the book was extraordinarily uncomfortable and disappointing to me. Like in H is for Hawk, I picked up this book to read about nature, not about grief and pain. While I have every sympathy for Kate and her family dealing with her mother’s illness, and it is beautifully discussed, this is not something I would ever choose to read about, and quite frankly, it ruined the book for me. There is no warning in the description or blurb about this.  So if, like me, you have a low tolerance for peering at other people’s misery, be warned that this is not a happy book, and it is not about Kate’s garden at all after her mother’s aneurysm.

So, three cats from me, purely because it made me want to get out into the garden and appreciate my plants and wildlife more. But overall, I would not recommend this unless people know what they are getting – if that’s your cup of tea, you may well love it. But it isn’t mine.

3 star

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