You pick up The Honey Farm, the debut novel by Harriet Alida Lye, because you are looking for something new from a new author. Its title speaks nothing more than the setting and the blurb hints only at thrilling and sensual encounters for the main characters of the tale; you’re willing to jump in the deep end and go for the ride no matter where it spits you out. And what a ride that turns out to be, between the mysterious owner of a honey farm, her strange singer assistant, a bold artist and a young woman begging to break free from the chains of her childhood and her family.
Lye writes brilliantly, using the physical presence of the words on the page to tell the story just as much as the words’ meaning. She explains nothing upfront, dialogue is drawn out and almost senseless at time, speaking to a bizarre, dream-like state that the story induces upon arrival to the farm. Her characters are rich, diverse and complex. She is a master of characterisation and setting, her wordsmithing allowing the reader to completely visualise the house and the seasons as they pass. Whilst some may dislike her descriptive use of words, you have to embrace it to truly enjoy and engage with the work.
Upon finishing I am not quite sure what to do – the feeling is akin to finishing a long-running TV show or completing a series of books, I feel lost from the completion. I can only guarantee that anyone who begins Lye’s work will be left wanting more.
Lovers of suspenseful drama, mysterious thrillers and those who can cope with ambiguity in their storytelling will love this novel. I’m certainly hoping for a repeat. I’ve not read anything so hard to put down in some time.
The Honey Farm is the perfect companion to a warm cup of tea and a rainy afternoon during winter.
Reviewed by Zoe Butler
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: April 2018
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook