Entertainment Book Reviews

Saturday 19 October 2019

The Beekeeper of Aleppo: Compelling tale of war and hope

The Beekeeper of Aleppo
The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Sile McArdle

You will travel far to find a novel which deals so simply, yet beautifully, with one of the most complex problems of our time: the plight of refugees.

Beekeeper Nuri has built a thriving business in his native Syria with his deep-thinking cousin, Mustafa. Nuri's wife, Afra, is a fabulously talented artist, and their young son, Sami, is their unswerving delight. Their lives are rich with joyous things that matter: nature, family, culture, work.

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Then a bomb strikes their garden, tearing apart their precious, priceless family unit. When Nuri eventually persuades Afra that they cannot continue their scrabble for survival in Aleppo's skeletal ruins, they embark on the journey of their lives via Istanbul and Athens.

Nuri's goal (an ambitious one, as the smugglers openly tell them) is to join Mustafa, his wife Aya and daughter Dahab in the UK - and his unfailing devotion to bring his blinded wife to the only family they have left carries Nuri through challenges that would have broken a lesser man. Although The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a novel, author Christy Lefteri is the daughter of Cypriot refugees and has volunteered in an Athens refugee centre. Her first-hand experience of the people behind the news stories shines through every sentence.

Lefteri has also cleverly and credibly evoked how the power of the mind can alter a person's perception of reality to allow them to cope with unthinkable and unspeakable events. She has skilfully balanced the ugliness of war with exquisite inspiration: the ailing infant who suddenly breastfeeds in a drug-riven Athens refugee camp, the wingless bee nurtured by Nuri and fellow refugees in the south-of-England B&B as they wait for their immigration interviews.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri

Zaffre, €13.99

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