The Keeper of the Bees nothing to buzz about

A wounded WWI vet walks away from an Army hospital rather than be sent to a facility where doctors predict his weakened body would succumb to tuberculosis.

Seeking surf and sun, Jamie MacFarlane hitchhikes and limps to the California coast, arriving just in time to summon medical help for the Master Bee Keeper.


The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter

1925; republished, Indiana University Press, 1991, paper, 505 pp. 1925 bestseller #3. My grade: C+.


Honey bee on flower is photo on "The Keeper of the Bees"Aided by a widowed neighbor and Little Scout, who is learning the apiary business, Jamie throws himself into getting his health back and using it to carry on the Master’s business.

Gene Stratton-Porter does her usual lyrical magic with her nature descriptions, but she fails characterization. Ten-year-old Little Scout alternatively sounds like Penrod and a Cambridge don—and Stratton-Porter is unable to make the plot grow out of her characterization.

The novel is full of loose ends and dropped threads, like Jamie’s walking away from the Brunson family who fed and sheltered him.

The action is further muddled by plot elements that mysteriously appear.  For example, a trunk develops a hidden lock between its first mention and its appearance as central part of the action.

Stratton-Porter was killed in an accident before this novel was published.

Had she lived to do some rewriting, The Keeper of the Bees might have been much better.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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