Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

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A deep-hitting story that speaks truth of the world.

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Since 2010, when Bashar Al Assad succeeded his father as president, Syria has been subjected to war crimes committed by its own government, humanitarian crisis and mass migration. By the end of 2018, 13 million (over half the country) have been forcibly displaced.

We are all familiar with the story. But what we are most familiar with is the fear, the anger and public stirrings of discontent. The word ‘migrant’ has undeniably been used as a powerful political spark in recent Populist movements (mentioning no names). Therefore, Penguin Random House releasing Christy Lefteri’s ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ cannot have come at a better time, when we should be reminded of the need for humanity and compassion.

Nuri is a successful beekeeper and Afra an artist, with a young son called Sami. They live in the vibrant, beautiful city of Aleppo; their lives enriched by tight family ties and the joys of a simple life. However, this idyllic world is blown apart by war. Afra becomes blind after the terrors she witnesses. They have to escape. Watching these people struggle towards an uncertain fate as they head towards Britain, where Nuri’s cousin Mustafa lives, becomes a heart-wrenching tale. Lefteri’s power of story-telling is exemplified in this book: The voices she harbours stick with you long after turning over her last page.

Lefteri uses her experiences, as a volunteer at a UNICEF-supported refugee camp in Athens, to craft this meaningful and eye-opening book. We see Nuri and Afra battle to keep hope, and to love again as adversity is thrown at them from all angles. Nuri’s protagonist perspective celebrates all the reasons why we should care about Syrian refugees.This book strips back the headlines and shows everyone the truthful hardships migrants are almost silently battling against. It dispels the negative feeling tossed at us over the past five years; instead highlighting the real issues refugees face in a more natural light. We suffer with Nuri, and we are allowed to care about him.

However, whilst The Beekeeper of Aleppo provides an exhilaratingly fresh perspective on the Western world, it is by no means a light-hearted read. Nor should it be. Can reading about violent atrocities ever make light reading? In fact, all things considered, Nuri is a calm, reasoned protagonist which the reader needs when dealing with such subjects: A perfect example of Lefteri’s expert handling of tone for such sensitive subjects. She does not shy away from hard-hitting realities, such as child mortality, violence and exploitation in camps. The reader has to experience this themselves if they are reading about the refugee crisis.

I listened to this book on audible, taking in the rich voice of Art Malik. As I sorted through Roman animal bones (don’t ask), Lefteri’s words provoked me to look back through time. It reinforced how close ad co-dependent West and East once were, and now different that relationship is today. And I know that the next time I touch a Roman bone (!), I will be cast back to this book.

So if you are looking to have a story stick with you, to learn some compassion, and to see the world through another lens: I’d strongly advise you to pick up ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’

Christy Lefteri’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo was published by Penguin Random House on 2nd May 2019

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I am a third-year English and History student dealing with life through books, creative writing and Downton Abbey

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