Book Review: A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings by Helen Jukes


My practical lessons on beekeeping have been on hold throughout winter, but I have enjoyed reading more on the subject.

Helen Jukes book is chock full of great information on everything bee related.


Entering her thirties, Helen Jukes feels trapped in an urban grind of office politics and temporary addresses – disconnected, stressed. Struggling to settle into her latest job and home in Oxford, she realises she needs to effect a change if she’s to create a meaningful life for herself, one that can accommodate comfort and labour and love. Then friends give her the gift of a colony of honeybees – according to folklore, bees freely given bring luck – and Helen embarks on her first full year of beekeeping. But what does it mean to ‘keep’ wild creatures? In learning about the bees, what can she learn of herself? And can travelling inside the hive free her outside it?  

As Helen grapples with her role in the delicate, awe-inspiring ecosystem of the hive, the very act of keeping seems to open up new perspectives, deepen friendships old and new, and make her world come alive. A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings is at once a fascinating exploration of the honeybee and the hive, the practices of honey-gathering and the history of our observation of bees; and a beautifully wrought meditation on responsibility and care, on vulnerability and trust, on forging bonds and breaking new ground.

‘This is classic modern nature-writing; a synthesis of scientific learning, observation and the author’s response. If you care for the wellbeing of bees and the planet and for the state of the human heart, then this book, with its deft and beautiful prose, is for you… And like all good nature writing, it also – quietly, clearly and insistently – requires us, too, to respond’ Countryfile Magazine

My Review

Helen’s story begins with a lot of stress and “head stuff” as she recounts numerous facts about bees and beekeeping. She is undergoing major life changes, with a recent move from Sussex to Oxford, starting a new job that has a permanent contract, and moving to a two up two down house with an overgrown garden, shared with her friend Becky.
However, Helen aspires to keeping bees, after a few years of learning from her friend Luke, who is an urban beekeeper.
It is time to get her own hive and bee colony.
Once her hive is in place and her bee colony arrives, she slowly moves into a more relaxed space, and opens her heart to the bees and to love…
As an aspiring beekeeper, I enjoyed following the author’s transformation which really resonates with the book title.

My journey to learn more about bees and beekeeping continues…

Brigid P. Gallagher is a retired natural medicines therapist, passionate organic gardener and author of “Watching the Daisies- Life lessons on the Importance of Slow,” a holistic memoir dedicated to the art of mindfulness and healing from debilitating illness.


  1. Given something to nurture we become caretakers with a new introspection. Love these type of books, where a personal sharing encourages a larger and varied audience. Thank you for reviewing the book for us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brigid, one of the ultimate life journey books! 😀 You describe the book with such warmth, love and interest that I’m immediately hooked. They say there should always be a transformation of a character in a book and this sounds like a total turnaround for Helen … and one which is a dream for many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A most interesting book, Brigid, that my dad will like. I think I mentioned that I have a rare allergy to bee stings and I get blood poisoning. As a result, they are not my favourite creatures in the world although I recognise their importance in nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a friend who took up bee-keeping and loves it. She worries about them through the harsh Alberta winter, and posts FB pictures all suited up in the summer 🙂
    I’ll stick to planting flowers to feed them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a good read, Brigid, rather like “H is for Hawk”. The author, another Helen (MacDonald?) transforms her life by training a hawk. It has very similar themes about wild animals and humans.

    Liked by 1 person

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