Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri)
“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”
– The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri)
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Author: Christy Lefteri
Page Count: 317
Published: 27 August 2019
Plot: (9.0 / 10) Characters: (9.0 / 10) Ending: (8.0 / 10)
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.
As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.
“It’s amazing, the way we love people from the day we are born, the way we hold on, as if we are holding on to life itself.”
This book is incredible. It’s powerful, unbelievably thought-provoking, beautifully written and basically it’s a story that needs to be read. While it is fiction, Lefteri spent time volunteering in a refugee centre in Greece, and she also met a man who had been a beekeeper in Syria and had made his way to the UK. There were other heartbreaking real-life references in it – during the Book Club chat, someone commented how the character of Sami was dressed in the same clothes as three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who drowned in 2015.
It’s an extremely descriptive book, particularly when Nuri was describing the beehives, I felt like I could almost hear the buzzing, and smell the honey. Due to Afra’s blindness, Nuri told her things with so much detail, and I loved how, at Afra’s request, he painted pictures with words, despite how terrible and upsetting some of the scenes he shared were.
I absolutely loved how the story was structured – a word bridging the past to the present. I thought it was clever and so unique. While the content itself is really hard to read, there are some beautiful, tender moments in the story, for example I loved hearing about the wingless bee in the B&B.
The ending felt a bit…unsure, I wanted to read more about them and find out exactly what happened next, but looking back on it, I think the ending was how it should be, the reader was left with uncertainty, with not knowing, just how Nuri and Afra were.
“What he is really saying is this: this is how the story must end; our hearts can bear no more loss.”
The story is raw and brutal, I found myself getting emotional throughout, and also found myself ashamed at how little I know about the conflict in Syria, and I spent the rest of the evening researching and learning. It’s an uncomfortable read, but I believe it’s an important, essential one.