Slipping into the fictional dream is easy. Lye’s beautiful prose creates an enveloping sense of place, yet the groundwork isn’t well laid for the story’s devolution into psychodrama. Hive structure and Old Testament plagues offer rubrics for understanding the novel’s complications. Both are compelling and disquieting, yet unresolved vying between schemas disrupts potential insight into characters and the novel’s ending ... In The Honey Farm, love and power are inextricably enmeshed. These blurred lines thread everything with threats until nothing seems reliable. Lye reconstitutes the terrain of gothic horror and the strangeness that’s bred from isolation.
In her atmospheric debut novel The Honey Farm, Toronto writer Harriet Alida Lye stirs the imagination and calls us to attention: Listen to the 'throttling hum of movement' and 'a hungry, unearthly cringe: the rub of wings as they fly.' This unnerving sound of swarming bees is not something I’d like to hear while I’m in my garden, but on the page, its suggestion of something sinister compels me to read on and immerse myself in the eerie world of beekeeper Cynthia’s honey farm ... The novel satisfies any curiosity about the social hierarchy of bees while hewing to a dark story line. If the author stumbles, it’s with too many secondary characters, supernumeraries waiting in the wings with little to add to the narrative; and, a small quibble, her overuse of similes. She really doesn’t need them. Her richly detailed prose, vivid imagery and effective pacing combine to make this first novel a memorable one.
It’s a satisfying setup, reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery, the entire cast of characters marooned together in an exotic locale. Strange events ensue. Silvia drinks from a garden hose and finds the water blood-colored. The group is afflicted with head lice. A swim in a murky pond disturbs an unimaginable number of frogs, which soon infiltrate the house. The incidents seem related to an unprecedented drought that’s making the bees anxious. Clearly, evil is afoot ... The writing is uneven, but Lye is at her best when describing the natural world ... When it comes to creating suspense, The Honey Farm succeeds almost too well.
...propulsive, occasionally frustrating ... Much of the way this [narrative] plays out feels overdetermined, in no small measure because of the heavy-handed symbolism inherent in the farm’s colony of bees ... There’s a lot going on here, and Lye keeps the narrative moving at a brisk clip with short, dialogue-heavy chapters that rarely run more than two or three pages ... Lye evokes gothic tropes and a rippling aura of foreboding that recall Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier by way of the tortured Catholicism of Flannery O’Connor ... the ending, when it arrives, impresses as being unexpected and ambiguous.
Cynthia’s honey farm in rural Ontario has been dealing with months of drought, and she and her assistant, Hartford, need help with the upcoming summer harvest season ... With a strong command of tone and a haunting sense of atmosphere, Lye’s first novel will transfix readers. At times lyrical, biblical, and otherworldly, The Honey Farm is a suspenseful and well-crafted story.
Lye’s characterisation is rich and faultless. Her presentation of the whole character set in this novel is generous and detailed. Cynthia, the farm owner and lead, remains quite the enigma for the whole of the novel and I believe this shroud of mystery worked well to draw the reader further into the novel ... The Honey Farm is a book that comes to an abrupt close. Generally, I am not a fan of open endings but I feel The Honey Farm did not end in the right place at all. It is hard to draw any kind of personal conclusion to the final fate of the characters and these were characters I bec[a]me very concerned about. So, if you don’t like plot holes and unexplained endings, The Honey Farm is one book that may not be worth investing your energy in.
An aura of mystery, faintly tinged with menace, permeates Canadian author Lye’s sensuous debut novel set in a remote, drought-imperiled part of Ontario ... Though the plot falters somewhat toward the finish, Lye offers an achingly lyrical excursion into a lost Eden.
Short chapters, which shift between Silvia's and Ibrahim’s points of view, help build suspense. As the book races to its close, the secrets beneath the surface begin to buzz as loudly as a bees nest. For a psychological thriller, the novel sometimes shows its hand too much, making the characters seem naïve or willfully ignorant. Despite this, there’s a lot that’s done right: the use of biblical verses and stories; the meticulous rendering of the farm; the unsettling tone woven throughout. Most important is Lye’s lush, poetic prose, which soars off the page ... Each lyrical line feels like a gift left at the reader’s altar. A honey-mouthed debut ruminating on creation, possession, and faith.