‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ Christy Lefteri

The main protagonist, Nuri, keeps bees in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo with his wife Afra, an artist. Their life is simple but full of warm friendships and happiness, then the war destroys everything they hold dear. Their unbearable loss and the horrors witnessed by Afra are so harrowing that she is now blind. Forced to make the perilous journey through Turkey and Greece, the couple head toward an uncertain future in Britain. Nuri holds on to the hope that his cousin and business partner Mustafa is waiting for them in this foreign land, living in a place called Yorkshire and teaching the fine art of beekeeping. They must not only travel to find and begin a new life but Nuri and Afra desperately need to find a path back to each other and learn to live and love again.

The story goes back and forth between the trials of their journey and their life in England. The raw emotion of this narrative is conveyed through Nuri’s recollections, thoughts and feelings about his wife, their situation and the trauma of war. The author gives us beautifully written glimpses of their homeland, the rich tapestry of family life and the sharp contrast of living as a refugee in a strange country. By reading about a city that most of us have only heard of in the news, you gain an insight into the Syrian culture, the bravery of its citizens and their tenacity to overcome the worst conditions.

This is a powerful and moving depiction of life as a refugee, written by someone who witnessed the impact of the war and the deep psychological scars left by tragedy and bereavement. Lefteri spent time working for UNICEF in a refugee centre in Athens and encountered many displaced people who had endured the dangerous journey in the hope of a new beginning. The author has brilliantly laid out the story in a deceptively simple way, creating layers of feeling that she pushes you through as you read it. There is so much to appreciate about this book, more than anything it makes you grateful to live a life in relative comfort, despite our recent enforced hibernation. It’s a perfect time to read and digest this novel. It is a modern testament to the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Published by Manila Press ISBN 1838770011

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