Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

Aleppo in Syria is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is where this story begins. Nuri is a beekeeper who lived a peaceful life in Aleppo with his artist wife Afra and their son Sami until their lives were shattered by war. Sami is killed in a bomb blast whilst playing in the garden. The same blast renders Afra blind after seeing Sami die. Afra and Nuri remain in Aleppo longer than they should, not wanting to leave the memory of their young son. Eventually they are forced to go when it becomes apparent that Nuri’s life is at risk. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is the story of their journey fleeing through Turkey and Greece as they try to reach England where Nuri’s cousin who taught him about bees lives.

But in Syria there is a saying: inside the person you know, there is a person you do not know.

Christy Lefteri, herself the daughter of refugees, wrote the novel after spending a couple of years volunteering in a refugee centre in Athens. It is a story about the refugee journey and the experiences they endure in a state of high vulnerability. It touches on the effects of severe trauma, grief, child trafficking, ethnic cleansing, flight, asylum processes, seeking a new home when your own becomes uninhabitable – it is also a love story.

I wanted to set forth the idea that among profound, unspeakable loss, humans can still find love and light—and see one another.

As Nuri and Afra escape Syria, each are haunted in different ways by what they have seen and experienced. They become known to the reader as the people they were before the troubles, as well was who they have become as a result of flight from a war torn country. We witness their struggle to stay connected with one another and their dead son whilst they navigate their way to safety.

People are not like bees. We do not work together, we have no real sense of a greater good

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is written with compassion and hope. Whilst the characters experience great brutality, the story is also beautiful and a moving plea for greater humanity in our treatment of displaced people.

Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope

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