In 1766, at the age of 15, Francois Huber learns that he is going blind. As the darkness descends, he sets his mind on an extraordinary scientific inquiry into the violent and sexually competitive world of the bee. He teaches his manservant to observe in his place and together they document their astonishing findings, with extraordinary obsessiveness and insight. Set against a backdrop of the scientific and intellectual idealism of the Enlightenment, Sara George's fascinating new novel is a story of passion, knowledge, and human limitations.
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Sara George is the award-winning author of the acclaimed THE JOURNAL OF MRS PEPYS, which was serialised on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. She lives in London.From Booklist:
With the French Revolution as its backdrop, George's latest historical novel quickly engages the reader, both as a treatise on the scientific method and as a perceptive exploration of the life of a blind man. In 1785, Francois Huber, a blind gentleman living outside Geneva, hires a young man, Francois Burnens, as his manservant. That position quickly expands as Huber's interest in the lives of bees becomes more scientific in nature. He relies heavily on Burnens' vision as they carry out precise observations on such questions as the fecundation of the queen, who leads a swarm, and whether female worker bees can lay eggs. Their work leads to the publication of New Observations on Bees, which becomes the foremost monograph on the subject. George delicately intersperses scientific experiments with personal anecdotes, elucidating how Huber deals with his blindness, and how Burnens comes to realize that he needs to leave his position and find his own niche in life. A fascinating blend of science and personal struggles, this thoughtful novel appeals on many levels. Deborah Donovan
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