The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (2019) #20 Books Of Summer

Aleppo was a beautiful city before the civil war brought unrest and violence to Syria. The Beekeeper of Aleppo provides a glimpse of this beauty before the civil war swept Syria with violence and destruction.

Nuri was a beekeeper and his wife an artist whose paintings of rural and urban areas of the country won her many awards. They had a three year old son, Sami. Nuri’s cousin, Mustafa, had introduced him to beekeeping and together they ran a profitable business. It was Mustafa who first realised that trouble was brewing and made plans to send his wife and daughter to England while he stayed behind with his teenaged son to see to the bees. 

‘I just can’t abandon the bees, Nuri,’ he said one night, his large hand coming down over his face and his beard, as if he was trying to wipe off the sombre expression he always wore now. ‘The bees are family to us.’

One night vandals destroyed the hives and with all the bees dead, Mustafa was ready to leave Aleppo along with Nuri and his family. But before he could left tragedy struck both families.

Mustafa managed to get out of Syria in time but Afra refused to leave. Trauma had blinded her, physically and mentally, and it took a threat on her husband’s life to awaken her to their danger. 

The political scene had deteriorated so much that men and boys were forced into fighting and leaving the country was fraught with danger.

The story follows Nuri and Afra as they escape via Turkey to Greece and the perils they encounter on the way. They planned to join Mustafa in England but everything was so uncertain and the smugglers they depended upon untrustworthy. Even in Athens there were dangers and it seemed as if they’d never find a safe resting place. Trauma had laid its hand on both man and wife and changed them both. Now they had to learn to know each other again.

Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees and spent time working at a refugee centre in Athens. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a work of fiction but it grew out of what she saw, heard and felt on the streets and camps in Athens. A letter from the author at the end of the book describes how the idea for the story came to her and the impact her work with refugees made upon her.

Lefteri doesn’t shy away from the reality of civil war, the trauma suffered by refugees and especially the danger to unaccompanied minors in refugee camps, but she doesn’t dwell on it either. I thought this was handled well, giving the reader enough details but not too explicitly. It is a compassionate look at the plight of people caught up in messes not of their own making and the choices made by individuals to either to help or prey upon those who have nowhere else to turn. 

One thing I wasn’t enamoured with was the shifting timeline of the story. This seems to be a common device of modern authors but it doesn’t always work. I thought it was confusing in this case.

A plus - two nice full page maps showing Syria and Nuri and Afra’s journey. If I were a publisher this would be mandatory for any book involving a journey.


Lark said…
Shifting timelines can be confusing. And I'm surprised they didn't put in a map! Other than that, this sounds like a really good read.
mudpuddle said…
difficult topics to think about; i wish i was a global emperor so i could put a stop to all that misery... i'm like that with maps also: mesmerizing...
reese said…
This does sound like a good story about a difficult situation.

I like the cover, too!
Carol said…
Hi Lark, my comment about the map may have been a bit ambiguous. There were two maps in the book. 😊
Carol said…
Hi Mudpuddle, mmm, I wouldn’t trust myself with all that power. 😳
Carol said…
Reese, I liked the cover as well. 👌
Sounds intriguing, Carol! I'm not a HUGE historical fiction reader, but this one sounds good. I also don't love shifting timelines. I recently watched the new Little Women movie and REALLY disliked that (among other things ;) ) way of storytelling.
nice review. might be too emotional a book for me
gretchenjoanna said…
Thanks for another great review, that makes me put this on my to-read list.

About an unrelated book: Which The Keys of the Kingdom are you referring to on your Favorite Books list on your profile page? I see that it is the title of different books by a few authors.
Carol said…
Hi Amy, I tend to stick with older historical fiction, which I enjoy. I think Kate Morgan does the shifting timelines quite well.
Carol said…
Hi Emma, that type of thing doesn't affect me generally, unless it's really graphic and then I ditch the book.
Carol said…
Gretchen, it was written by A. J. Cronin. I probably should put that in. :)
I have another of his I'm wanting to read, 'The Citadel' which is supposed to be very good.
Marianne said…
This has been on my wishlist for a while, I'll have to get it.

I totally agree with the map in every book. Not just if it's a journey, I would love maps as soon as it's halfway important to the story. LOL

Thanks for the review.
Carol said…
Agreed, Marianne!

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