Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Every now and then you come across a book that affects you deeply and alters the way you view the world. The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri, is one of those books.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is emotionally complex and yet tenderly and beautifully told. You will hold your breath, from the first page to the last.
The narrative follows Nuri and Afra, Syrian refugees. Nuri is a beekeeper, and his wife, Afra, is an artist blinded by an explosion. This is their story as they journey through Turkey and Greece to find asylum in the U.K.
Although not a memoir, Christy Lefteri’s skill as a writer makes it read as one, even though it is fiction. The credibility of the story is grounded in the author's research and personal engagement while volunteering at a UNICEF supported refugee centre in Athens.
This has carefully informed the integrity of her storytelling as she delicately deals with the darkness of fear, trauma and grief.
‘No matter how much she scrubs, she can’t get rid of the dampness
and the mould and the smell of terrible journeys filled with fear.’ [pg 148]
The characters may be fictional, but their stories are not, and Christy Lefteri has artfully blurred the lines between the two. She has given faces to the untold and harrowing tales of those fleeing their homes due to wars, persecution and poverty.
‘For a while there was no sound, not a bomb or a bird or a breath.
Then Mustafa moved away from the table, put on his glasses and carefully
sharpened the small pencil with a knife and, sitting down
at his desk, he opened the black book and wrote: Name - my beautiful boy.
Cause of death - this broken world.’ [pg 23]
The story is written with gentleness and compassion and the narrative does not allow you to be a spectator. Christy Lefteri is a powerful storyteller and she has achieved something rare and significant in this book. Your response will be one of humble awe as you become intimately involved with each character and become part of their journey.
‘The bee is sleeping on one of the dandelions…
I watch her resting among the flowers with her saucer of
sugar water by her side; she has learnt to live without her wings. [pg 352]
At its core, this story celebrates the perseverance and bravery of the human spirit to not give up, despite unspeakable loss, and to hold onto the tiniest shred of hope when hopelessness seems to overwhelm.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo will claim a piece of your heart. It will break your heart and piece it back together in ways that will change you.
‘This is how the story must end. Our hearts can bear no more loss.’ [pg 359]