Beekeeper Review: Elizabeth Boyd and Bill Chalmers

“Between two beekeepers there can be no strife. Not even a tepid hostility can mar their perfect communion.
The petty enmities which life raises to be barriers between man and man and between man and woman vanish once it is revealed to them that they are linked by this great bond. Envy, malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness disappear, and they look into each other’s eyes and say ‘My brother!”

Uneasy Money is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse and, like most of his works, it is a farcical comedy. Unlike too many of his (and everyone’s) works, this is a story about beekeepers. The fact that they are beekeepers is not particularly relevant to the plot, so I’d hoped I could go into detail without giving much away, in case anyone wanted to check out Wodehouse (which they ought) and decided to do it through a work not related to his more well-known franchises. But I do kind of need to spoil a bit here. There are two beekeepers in this book and they fall in love. I admit that’s a pretty big spoiler, but I assure you there are jokes and misunderstandings that will get a reader through the story even knowing the ending.

Elizabeth Boyd is an American beekeeper, but she isn’t making much money at it. “She had not prospered greatly. With considerable trouble she contrived to pay her way, and that was all.” On top of running her bee farm in Brookport, Long Island, she also has to take care of her loser brother Nutty. She’s a hard working, nice young woman.

William FitzWilliam Delamere Chalmers is an English lord (albeit one of the poorest of them) who enjoys beekeeping. He worked for a year on a bee farm until his lack of money and the response of his peers. “The general impression seemed to be that I should be foolish to try anything so speculative as beekeeping, so it fell through. Some very decent old boys got me another job.” Luckily, by the end of the book, Bill and Elizabeth are off to be wed and buy a big farm of their own. He’s a particularly nice guy, if a bit dim.

How do they rate as beekeepers? Well, Elizabeth is the only one employed as such during the events of the novel, and she admits her business just barely scrapes by. It isn’t for lack of trying, though. Any success she has at the job comes from natural aptitude, for she “loved bees, but she was not an expert on them” and she has “reached a stage of intimacy with her bees which rendered a veil a superfluous precaution.” Bill may not keep bees during the story, but at the very least he has a year of experience and no fear of the insects. He is capable of the job. And what of fighting? Well, it isn’t the kind of story where they get to do much fighting, but Bill is often described as a physically fit and even imposing figure. It isn’t his nature, but I suspect that if he had to fight, he’d do alright. Also of note: on one occasion, when wanting to inflict some minor pain to Bill, Elizabeth pokes him with a pin, which is on brand as a stinger. Maybe she’d do more with that motif in a fight. Any supernatural powers? Nothing significant, though there is one moment when Elizabeth is trying to hide something from a snooping reporter and one of her bees “stung him at the psychological moment” which could be coincidence, but also could be a bee knowingly doing its keeper’s bidding.

Beekeeper Rage? Well, Elizabeth at one point notes how quickly she goes from being unhappy that her brother may come into some money he will surely misuse, to “boil[ing] with rage” when he doesn’t get it. She knows it is inconsistent, but the rage is still there. But also “it was a trait in her character which she had often lamented, that she could not succeed in keeping angry with anyone for more than a few minutes on end.” So there isn’t too much Rage to be had.

Three Honeycombs out of Five.

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