Acclaimed British novelist digs up Maltese roots

With a Cisk bottle emblazoned on its cover, Caroline Smailes's Like Bees to Honey is a haunting story set in wartime Malta. 

Like Bees to Honey, a magical story of family, redemption and ghosts, written by British author Caroline Smailes, features Cisk on the cover illustration of the book. The beer also features prominently in the novel, which is set in Malta.

Launched in the UK in May this year, the book is on sale in all major bookshops in the country and will be promoted at several literary festivals later this year. The foreign rights have already been sold to Portugal.

Like Bees to Honey was launched in Malta only last week by Agenda Bookshops, and has already reached the local bestseller lists, outselling popular international author, Dan Brown.

“When I wrote Like Bees to Honey, I had pages of handwritten notes about my grandma and granddad’s time in Malta. Much didn’t make sense, there were contradictions and repetitions and a timeline that wasn’t very straight, but one thing that was confirmed was that after the war, my granddad managed to find work in the Farsons Brewery,” Smailes said.

Caroline Smailes’ grandparents met during WWII. Her grandmother was a Maltese girl, while her grandfather was an English soldier. Their union, and the consequence, the ostracising that followed, inspired this story.

“Cisk made an appearance in the novel because it felt right to do so. Then when it came to the cover, Becky Adams read the novel before embarking on the design. Clearly Cisk jumped out at her, as the bottle is so very prominent on the cover. I love that it is.

“For me it was never about product placement or advertisement, it was always about family history and Malta,” Smailes explained.

Susan Weenink, Head of Marketing at Simonds Farsons Cisk plc, commented, “We were informed about this only after the book was published and was about to be launched in the UK. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised with the prominence given to our flagship brand – Cisk, a brand that is very closely tied in to the history and development of Malta since World War II. So it was only fitting that the brand was mentioned in a novel that dates back to this period in our history.”

Caroline Smailes was born in Newcastle in 1973. She moved to the North West to study English Literature at Liverpool University. A chance remark on a daytime chat show spurred her to enrol on an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. Caroline graduated in 2007 with distinction and won the Michael Schmidt Prize for the best novel portfolio of the year. Her first novel, In Search of Adam, was published in 2007.

Caroline currently lives near Chester, UK with her husband and three children.

About the novel

Nina, her son Christopher in tow, flies to Malta to visit her aging parents one last time.

Her previous attempt to see them ended in tears. Disowned for falling pregnant while at university in England, she was not allowed into the house.

This will be her final chance to make peace with them.

But Malta holds more secrets and surprises than Nina could possibly imagine. What she finds is not the land of her youth, a place full of memories and happiness. Instead she meets dead people. Lots of them.

Malta, it transpires, is a transit lounge for recently deceased spirits and somehow Christopher enables her to see them, speak with them and help them.

And, in return, they help Nina to come to terms with her own loss. One so great that she has yet to admit it to herself.

Like Bees to Honey is a story of family, redemption and ghosts. It is a magical tale that will live with you long after you finish reading.

 Like Bees to Honey is available in at all Agenda Bookshops. For more information on the author, log on to