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Day Of The Bees (original 2000; edition 2001)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037570177X, Paperback)The narrator of Thomas Sanchez's fourth novel teaches art history in America, but he dreams of Europe--or more specifically, of Spain. The Professor (as he identifies himself) specializes in a Spanish painter of the 1940s, Francisco Zermano, to whom he has devoted a spate of scholarly articles. He also spends hours staring at the man's paintings, trying to imagine the stories behind them. This iconographic detective is particularly curious about one bit of recurrent imagery: the body of a beautiful woman, which is rumored to belong to Louise Collard, the painter's muse.
As Day of the Bees opens, in fact, Louise has just died alone in a small provincial village, and the Professor rushes to France to learn more about her role in Zermano's life. There he finds a pile of correspondence--and a revelation. According to legend, the artist treated Louise cruelly and abandoned her. Yet the letters reveal a deep and doomed love, one which is forever shattered when Louise is raped by a platoon of enemy soldiers (whom she later describes in her letters as "bees," a wonderfully eerie motif). Zermano, already beaten with a tire iron, is forced to watch the entire event. Here Louise recalls how the rape ruined her life, and its paradoxical resemblance to the redemption of true erotic love:
I have discovered something unnerving--that a woman in sexual ecstasy with her man forgets all detail; when it's over she wants to return and explore this abyss that still makes her tremble. The same thing can happen when she is raped, but for a different reason. Where joy once deleted memory, horror now destroys it. In two acts in her life can a woman lose all consciousness: in the act of lovemaking, and in rape, its cruel parody.After discovering Louise's letters, many of them never sent, the Professor embarks on a search for the aging Zermano, hoping to help set the record straight. In these chapters, the violent and tragic love story at the heart of Day of the Bees is nicely counterbalanced by an obsessive academic's comedy of errors. Like most of his kind, the narrator is late for trains, professorial to the bitter end, and devoted to (in every sense of the word) ghosts. --Emily White
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:13 -0400)
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