The Beekeeper of Aleppo

By Christy Lefteri

Release Date
August 27, 2019
Page Count
317 pages
Goodreads Rating
4.23
Genre
Literary Fiction, Cultural
What to expect
A glimpse into life as a refugee and their journey to freedom — One couple’s experience of ‘for better or worse, in sickness and in health’ — Compassion, beauty, loss, hope

 

Cover

Layered and symbolic. If I’m honest, it’s not my favourite! I would have preferred something simpler and more striking.

 

Prose

The sensitive nuances of author Christy Lefteri’s prose creates a softness in reading that juxtaposes against the brutality of war. But don’t mistake softness for beating around the bush. Lefteri portrays an honest narrative, portrayed through the eyes of our refugee without the need for rambling, flowery overtones.

 

Premise

This is a love story. Of home, of life, of the journey we take with the person we choose. From the publisher: “This unforgettable novel puts human faces on the Syrian war with the immigrant story of a beekeeper, his wife, and the triumph of spirit when the world becomes unrecognizable.”

We meet a beekeeper, Nuri, a Syrian refugee reflecting on the last few months and years of his life. He and his wife Afra, an artist, who experienced severe trauma due to the unfolding civil war in their homeland, are desperately hoping to receive refugee status in England.

As the process slowly unfolds to determine their fate, we accompany Nuri as he dwells on the journey that he and his wife have just taken.Through the beekeeper’s flashbacks, we learn that Nuri and Afra fled their home of Aleppo in Syria, travelling through Turkey and Greece to reach the safety of the United Kingdom.

After losing their son to the tragic chaos and violence that surrounded them, Afra, our beekeeper’s wife, lost her sight and very will to live. Nuri painfully recounts their fight for survival — the decision to leave their home, their arduous escape, and leaving behind his precious bees and his livelihood.While Nuri plays the role of dutiful husband to Afra, who is learning to live in a darkness of both the physical and emotional kind, we realise he is suffering an anguish of his own. Escaping war and traversing countries towards safety have caused a profound toll on his existence.

Together on their journey, this husband and wife seemed to travel further apart. Each is on their own path towards forgiveness and healing, while always hoping they’d find their way back to each other once again.It’s a journey that tests their grit, their relationship and their decision to sacrifice home for the sake of a future.

Review

What a beautiful and honest book this is.

Author Christy Lefteri drew upon her personal experience of working with refugees in Athens and as the daughter of a Cypriot refugee. The result is a stunning, detailed account of what life would be like for someone ripped from their home by war and seeking safety and solace.

This is a work of fiction, but patched together by the stories of those Lefteri encountered, including a beekeeper.My eyes were opened to the plight of a refugee. The harrowing decision to leave their home, a place wrapped up in their own identity.

Encountering the worst kinds of people who might be their only chance at freedom. And risking everything they own and are for the simple privilege of having a roof over their heads and a meal on their table.

The narrative around refugees in Australia is not one I’m proud of. Our media’s and government’s vitriol is barely masked; as a result our society looks upon ‘boat people’ as sub-human creatures who don’t deserve the freedoms and privileges our country has to offer. How heartless that sentiment is.

I wish more people could read books like this one and learn to understand that it takes a terrifying set of circumstances to want to risk everything you have. Refugees and asylum seekers deserve our compassion, kindness and generosity.

I loved how throughout the tale, the motif of bees resonates. Bees work together with — and for — their community. These creatures create a delicate ecosystem, vulnerable to destruction and reliant on each inhabitant for survival.

And for Nuri, they represent hope: “Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”This is a love story. Of home, of life, of the journey we take with the person we choose.

But when she was sad my world was dark. I didn’t have a choice about this. She was more powerful than I. She cried like a child, laughed like bells ringing, and her smile was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. She could argue for hours without ever pausing. Afra loved, she hated, and she inhaled the world like it was a rose. All this was why I loved her more than life.

Read an excerpt:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Cover
Prose
Characters
Plot
Ending
What to expect
A glimpse into life as a refugee and their journey to freedom
One couple’s experience of ‘for better or worse, in sickness and in health’
Compassion, beauty, loss, hope
If you liked
American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
4.4
A colourful, curated blend of books, wine and creativity, with a soft spot for Australian work and female-centric narratives.


Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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