Well-researched and well-written, this novel just doesn't grip as well as it should. It falls flat in many places - particularly why Eliza is drawn so much to spelling in the first place. It's atypical of a girl her age. Goldberg doesn't explore this.
The ending leaves much to be desired, too. Not everything needs to be wrapped up, but at least something does.
A sad, lovely and generous novel, gripping portrait of a family.
A great read.
I loved this book. I did not see the movie but the book has GOT to be better. It is not just about the girl Eliza but also her mother, father and brother in this strangely disfunctional family. They are Jewish but probably could have been any religion and you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the book. I'm going to recommend it to my book club because the characters and plot are so well developed and the writing is exquisite.
An underachiever, Eliza Naumann, lives in the shadows of her seemingly workaholic lawyer mom, and a father who focuses all of his energy on Eliza's brother who has rabbinical ambition. She amazes everyone when she wins the spelling bee, and this victory sets off a series of events that throws the already dysfunctional Naumann family into crisis. It is Eliza, through her newfound abilities and confidence, who tries to hold them all together. An intriguing story that holds on to you well after you've completed reading it.
Amusing at times, but had an overall inconsistent, disjointed feel. The parents came across as superficial but at least Eliza, the protagonist, was likeable.
Hard to put down. Seems like it would be a simple story of a Jewish girl who wins spelling bees, but it's so much more. A story of a family that wants to connect with each other but can't get past each individual's unique problems to do so.
A facinating study of a family of four, each trying to find the piece of themselves not provided by their lives, their family relationships, or their religion. With Zmrzlina, I'm not sure eccentric is the term I'd use to describe them. Incredibly needy, perhaps. Untethered.
The heroine, Eliza, is a particularly engaging girl; the mother, conspicuous by her absence in the early story lines, achingly mad. The father Saul, who turned years ago from a background of hallucinagenic seeking, nevertheless tries for a God-invoked nirvana. And the brother Aaron becomes increasingly disengaged from the family as Saul turns from him to heap time, pride, love and expectations on Eliza.
A very worthwhile book, expecially for a first work.
An interesting read that brings words and letters to life. A unique glimpse into the private lives and selves of a functioning disfunctional family. Learned a lot from this book.
What an interesting story! Surprisingly so, especially since from the jacket it doesn't seem like it would be terribly exciting... and yet I was unable to put it down. Myla Goldberg draws you into the Naumann family and all of its members. You feel their sadness, their loneliness, their hopes, and ultimately their love.
I read this book after seeing the movie "Spellbound". Recently, a movie called "Akeelah and the Bee" brought the story back to mind. The author blends ancient Kaballah mysticism with modern-day spelling bees.
This book would have gotten the full five stars had the ending not been so... unfinished? Bee Season is the story of a seamingly average girl, Eliza, who discovers she has an incredible knack for spelling. Where "Akeela and the Bee" took it's viewers through the life of just Akeel and her quest to win the National Spelling Bee, "Bee Season" tells the story of how each family member is effected during the Bee and the events leading up to and after it.
As a person living with OCD, I found it incredible to get into the mind of Eliza's mother, Miriam, and how OCD can ravage a life and destroy the perfect order of things if it isn't controlled. I also recognized the patterns of behavior the rest of the family had when trying to pretend that Miriam was perfectly normal, sleeping only three or four hours a night and cleaning each individual item in the refrigerator while everyone else sleeps.
Eliza's father, Saul, is a great character who is responsible for my new desire to study religion. It is interesting to hear his conflict with Eliza's brother, Aaron, when Aaron breaks from Judaism and in doing so, breaks away from Saul.
Overall, very well written. I found that, toward the end, I could not put the book down. Well worth the read, just don't count on a tidy ending.
It has been a few years since reading this, though I vividly recall recommending it to EVERYONE at the small bookstore I worked at when The Bee Season was released. Mysticism, beautiful scenes...loved it!
A little slow-going at first, but intriguing once I got past the first couple chapters. I felt the girl's character could have been a bit more developed.
A gripping portrait of a family. Eliza Naumann has no reason to believe she is anything but ordinary, especially after her teachers place her in the class for slow learners. Her father, Saul, dotes on her older brother Aaron's rabbinical ambitions. Her mother, Miriam, seems fully absorbed by her law career. When a spelling bee threatens to reaffirm her mediocrity, Eliza amazes everyone: she wins. Her newfound gift garners an invitation not only to the national competion, but to her father's sacred study where a new dictionary beckons, Jewish mysticism lurks in leather tomes, and language offers a spritual awakening.
I just finished this book. It was unreal. The story started out relatively mundane... and then the family went into a tailspin. You are left wondering if there was a total crash and burn or if, perhaps, there were some survivors. The story was just recently released on DVD with Richard Gere... some minor differences in the film.
Very interesting, and a must read if you have seen the movie. The book is of much more depth.
I loved this book. I will be reading more from this author. You really get a very close feel for the characters. Very good read :)
Your heart will break for the characters. I picked up lots of info on the Jewish faith. This is a good one.
This is one of the better books I've read in 2006. Myla Goldberg's narrative style is very real, very personal. The way she descibes how Ellie, Aaron, Saul and Miriam are feeling - I was right there with each character. More often than not, I found myself feeling exacly how each felt at some moment in a time in my own life - Ms. Goldberg gets that "into" the emotions. It was fascinating to see each of their lives spiraling and changing and how each adapted (or didn't quite adapt) to change.
A wonderful, sad book. I loved the movie too.
Eliza is an average girl. When a spelling bee threatens to reaffirm her mediocrity, Eliza amazes everyone: she wins.
Bee season evokes a child's desperate longing for praise and acceptance and is a masterful portrayal of modern family life.
I found this book hard to get into, but an overall "okay" book. Not one of my favorites.
Interesting book. More and more information about each character seeps out in each chapter. They all have secrets they're keeping from one another.
I enjoyed the book, though it is very strange, as others have said. The central events of the Spelling Bees are seemingly irrelevant in the larger picture of what is going on with the family. To me, the book is less about Eliza than a portrait of a dysfunctional family.
A little slow at times, but I enjoyed it and would recommend reading. I read it on the beach so it is something you can put down and come back to without effort.
I thought Bee Season was extremely thought provoking. It's a pretty out there account of "modern day family life." With deeply religious undertones, it tells the tale of a young girl's longing to be accepted by her father - their bond occurring through the study of Jewish mysticism and her knack for spelling - while the rest of her family spins out of control. Give it a try. It's pretty surprising.
great characterizations...i loved the way the viewpoint changed by character, but the ending left me a little flat. definitely a depressing read.
I was excited to read this book because I heard alot of good things about it, but when I was finished i was left disappointed. Although it was a good story overall, I felt it was anticlimatic. Sorry, I just wasnt grasped by this one...
A story about a young girl who is trying to find her own place in spite of being labeled "slow" in school.
So many people told me that I'd love this book. I didn't LOVE it, actually. It was a good read and enjoyable. But not on my list of faves.
The characters were original. The whole time I read this book, I was thinking, "How did the author come up with that?" I was amazed until I read the very last page. I hated the ending. I won't say what happens because I don't want to deter anyone from reading this book. 99% of it was a very good read.
Good book, reminiscent of Anne Tyler.
Sweet, strange, and worthwhile. Goldberg's descriptions of the almost mystical experience of spelling-bee transcendence are even better than her lyrical depictions of mystical spiritual experience. A truly unique, often very beautiful, always unexpected novel that I was sorry to see end.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
A quirky and lovable tale of a girl, a family, and a spelling bee.
This book tells the story of Eliza Naumann, a young girl who is not academically gifted, but finds that she has an unnatural knack for spelling. She easily wins her class spelling bee, then the school spelling bee, and continues to move forward. She is both thrilled and apprehensive about her father's new-found interest in helping her achieve her goal of winning the nation spelling bee: she's thrilled because her father never seemed to have time for her before, but she's apprehensive because she is now taking away from the time her brother Aaron used to spend studying with their father. She's also originally unsettled by the fact that her father seems to use her spelling as a means to propel her into a soul-searching quest for religious enlightenment, though Eliza slowly sees this as an attainable goal herself. Aaron, meanwhile, deals with his own religious awakening, one that is vastly different from the future rabbi goals his father set for him. During all this, Eliza's mother, Miriam, sinks deeper into a dark secret that's she's been hiding from her family for many, many years.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It's not to say that this is a bad book. It's just OK. I found myself able to connect with Eliza and Aaron, but I found it much harder to connect, or even like their parents throughout the story. As other reviewers have said, this book seems a bit disjointed and everything doesn't quite feel resolved at the end. I was left feeling a bit unfulfilled at the end. It's still an OK read, but just not what I expected going into it.
I love the Jewish mysticism that threads throughout the book.
I did not know what to expect fromthis book but I found it fascinating. I could not put the book down and have passed it along to my mom and a co-worker who also liked. it.
Great book. I didn't know what to expect - but it turned out that I couldn't put it down. Very good play on inter-family relationships and dysfunctional families. The end surprised me very much. A very good read.
Beautiful and heartbreaking. I could barely finish it because the story is so painful.
this book was much better than the movie!
A very unususal and strange book, but very engaging and interesting. They made a movie from it, but I haven't seen it.
Interesting first novel, describing the delicate balance of family relationships and the descent into madness.
A fun read! Explores family relationships in a unique way.
I thought that this story was pretty strange. It appears to have gotten good reviews.
I really had a hard time getting into this one...
A great intense story regarding a highly religious Jewish man and how it affects his religion affects his relationship with his family.
This is another book about a dysfunctional marriage. The family happens to be Jewish, which proves to be important to the plot. It's an interesting read but not my favorite.
A riveting family drama, couldn't put it down.
Not what you would expect. Very spiritual in nature- while at the same time a story about a family falling apart. I hear it is a movie with Richarg Geere this winter season. Enjoy
my favorite book this year. This is a story of a family that just does not seem to connect on any level and the disasterous consequences.....heartwarming at times but heartwrenching mostly. Myla Goldberg is an extremely talented author with a gift for the written word. I look forward to more books by her.
From the cover:
Eliza Nauman has no reason to believe she is anything but ordinary, especially after her teachers place her in the class for slow learners. Her father, Saul, dotes on her older brother Aaron's rabbinical ambitions. Her mother, Miriam, seems fully absorbed by her law career. When a spelling bee threatens to reaffirm her mediocrity, Eliza amazes everyone: she wins. Her newfound gift garners an invitation not only to the national competition, but to her father's sacred study where a new dictionary beckons, Jewish mysticism lurks in leather tomes, and language offers a spiritual awakening.
Eliza's unexpected success sends her off-kilter family into a tailspin, and Eliza comes to depend upon her own divination to hold the family together. With intense imagination and great emotional acuity, Bee Season evokes a child's desperate longing for praise and acceptance and is a masterful portrayal of modern family life.
I loved it, my sister hated it, calling it weird and depressing. I thought the characters extremely interesting and the language beautiful.
An interesting story about a not-so-typical family.
A "slow learner" becomes a spelling bee champion while her unusual and unhappy family all spin out of control in their own ways.
Very good, only wish that there was more about what happened with the family after Eliza's bee.
This book certainly was not what I expected. It was very vivid in its description of sexual acts and the characters internal feelings about the lives they are living. A decent read that leaves you longing for more at the end.
A brilliant book about how nothing is ever the way it seems and more proof that no one can ever truly know another person.
I didn't really prefer this book but LOTS of people do. Try it out!
Wonderful a very easy read. A NY Times notable book
Couldn't finish it. Pretentious writing with an annoying narrator. Writer couldn't write for a child's thoughts to save her life: using words like "inertia" and having observations that clearly come from the narrator, not the child. Main plot driver not believable: a child who is mediocre at everything is suddenly a spelling savant. Not only unbelievable, but I don't care about the character -- thanks to the narrator's snottiness. Don't understand what the hype is about this book. The author clearly wants you to know she knows big words and you don't.
What a cute book. I loved it. A definite quick read.
Interesting and thought provoking. I recommend it.
Well-written, intelligent book about a young girl who suddenly discovers her talent for spelling. Her gift takes her all the way to the National Spelling Bee, and opens the door to her father's attentions. Involves Jewish mysticism, and odd family dynamics.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Sad and cerebral. I liked it.
Very interesting read. I liked it.
I really enjoyed this book about a young girl, her drive to be loved, and her strange family.
Absolutely fabulous- I loved it!
Complicated, complicated. Not at all about a spelling bee. About a family that singularly and in tandem, falls apart. Well-written.
Difficult read. I couldn't get into it.
This is a paperback edition
I loved this book. I read it a long time ago, so I don't remember the details, but remember loving it.
An eccentric family falls apart at the seams in an absorbing debut that finds congruencies between the elementary school spelling-bee circuit, Jewish mysticism, Eastern religious cults and compulsive behavior. Nine-year-old Eliza Naumann feels like the dullest resident of a house full of intellectuals--her older brother, Aaron, is an overachiever; her mother, Miriam, is a lawyer; and her father, Saul, is a self-taught scholar and a cantor at the community synagogue. She surprises herself and the rest of the Naumanns when she discovers a rare aptitude for spelling, winning her school and district bees with a surreal surge of mystical insight, in which letters seem to take on a life of their own. Saul shifts his focus from Aaron to Eliza, devoting his afternoons to their practice sessions, while neglected Aaron joins the Hare Krishnas. Seduced by his own inner longings, Saul sees in Eliza the potential to fulfill the teachings of the Kabbalah scholar Abulafia, who taught that enlightenment could be reached through strategic alignments of letters and words. Eliza takes to this new discipline with a desperate, single-minded focus. At the same time, her brilliant but removed mother succumbs to a longtime secret vice and begins a descent into madness. Goldberg's insights into religious devotion, guilt, love, obsessive personalities and family dynamics ring true, and her use of spelling-as-metaphor makes a clever trope in a novel populated by literate scholars and voracious readers... --Publishers Weekly