Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

Blurb: “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. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

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, they must journey to find each other again.”

Genre: Historical Fiction, War Fiction, War Novel, Novel

Goodreads Rating: 4.2/5

My Rating: 5/5

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS


This book was something special. I’ve never read anything quite as moving as this book before. I had literally added this book to my reading list and then the next day walked into Waterstones and it was there on the stand in front of me (pre Covid-19 lockdown 3 in the UK). So naturally I picked it up and bought it. I read it within 3 days. It was stunning and breathtaking so I’m going to tell you (and show you) why.

First I loved the way this book was written. It goes from the present to the past, Nuri and Afra’s journey travelling from Aleppo to the UK. There is absolutely no small feat about this journey, their motivation is inspiring. We see their time seeking asylum in the UK and between these chapters we learn about their journey to the UK and their struggles with PTSD, but the way this is shown in the book is pretty and nothing I’ve ever seen before. The last word of the present is the first word of the past flashback and is displayed in the middle of the page in a beautiful illustration as you can see below.

The journey itself that they have made is just incredible. From Aleppo to the car journeys through Syria, having to duck down in the back of trucks and lie about where they were going. To the boat crossings in their small dingy, wearing life jackets and the awful waves throwing people overboard. Potentially losing Mohammed overboard causing Nuri to jump in the water after him, Mohammed being a young boy Nuri has taken responsibility for after he was on his own, almost a replacement for Sammi without realising. And when they reach the camps, Mohammed disappears. So Nuri looses the one thing that even slightly brought him comfort as he resembled and was significant with the loss of Sammi. But when Nuri is in the UK, he still sees Mohammed in his dreams and feels Mohammed is trying to tell him something or point him back to the direction of his wife, back in the direction of goodness, although it doesn’t always end well once he wakes up.

The camps sounded horrendous and it made me realise that people are actually dealing with this in real life. It made me glad to hear that they were given shelter, food and clothes after their horrendous boat ride, but what about when these camps are full? There is a lot of talk through the book of ‘The camps are full‘ and ‘they’ve closed the borders’ so their next part of their journey will be a struggle and thats where the illegal smugglers come in. Giving these people their trust and their money to get them to where they need to be. there is a period of time where they are in Italy. They are sleeping in a park where the volunteers for Red Cross brought them too, and left them there. Afra does not feel safe yet they manage to make a friend as safety in numbers. But awful things happen here, and instead of waiting for salvation that never comes from the Red Cross Nuri takes it into his own hands and they pay a smuggler to get them to the UK.

I feel for me this book is eye opening. This is happening in real life. REAL people are going through REAL situations and trauma like this, and we are treating them like animals and not offering asylum when they people have experienced WAR and had everything destroyed. They have no where else to go. And although in the books they are offered food, shelter and clothes, are they offered this in real life? Most likely not. I’ll be posting some links at the bottom of this review if you would like to donate to refugee relief.

I sympathised with pretty much all of the main characters, they have all been displaced and hit with the horrors of war. A horror that I could not even dream of experiencing or knowing what they are going through. So when Afra originally refuses to leave Aleppo amongst all the ruins because it is where their son Sammi is buried after he was killed in a bomb explosion, my heart breaks for them. I feel so upset for them because they had such a beautiful life in Aleppo before, Nuri tending the bees with his best friend Mustafa, so passionate about the bees and learning their motives and harvesting the honey and Afra and their son Sammi dining and relaxing with Mustafas family. Everything was happy and bright and colourful. And it had all been left in ruins. I can feel the desperation through out the book for a better life, when Afra explains she “doesn’t like this place” or when Nuri explains she “lays in bed all day” I just feel deflated for them and all that they are going through. Their motivation to get to the UK is that Mustafa is there and has started a new business with the bees and Nuri is going to help him as soon as he can when he gets to the UK, some sort of normality and what they were used too in Aleppo. That small slice of home.

It is interesting to learn that Afra is blind due to the horrendous things she has seen. She witnessed the bomb kill her child. War destroy her city. Due to this trauma she is blind, but not blind. She is blind and cannot see from trauma, but her sight will come back over time. This was interesting to me as I did not realise this could happen but it very much can when dealing with immense amounts if life changing stress which made me sympathise for her more. But what made me really feel things is when even though she could see, she still coloured in the colouring books Nuri bought her.

They have also come away/apart from each other in a time where they need each other most. All the way through you can see that Nuri loves his wife, but he has moved so far away from her as Afra has from him. They are withdrawn from each other through this trauma although they rely on each other more than ever. So when at the end, after making it to the UK and seeing Mustafa again, they are drawn back to each other with that feeling of hope and happiness to help them it makes me so overwhelmingly happy. They went through so much together so to finally find themselves back in each others arms made me so elated and honestly, I cried.

This book is eye-opening, harrowing, and with so much depth, an absolute testament to the triumph of human spirit and motivation. I voted this book 5/5 and say that you go and get this book now and Ive never felt so passionately about a book in this way. If you would like to donate to refugee relief there are some links below for you.

Book Review: The Foundling by Stacey Halls

Blurb: “Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.”

Page Count: 370

Genre: Gothic fiction / Historical fiction.

Goodreads Rating: 4.05/5

My Rating: 4/5

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.


This book was an impulse buy after going to Tesco’s and seeing their two for one book offer, I mean its a must right? And I am so glad I picked it up to the point where I am absolutely going to pick up the Author, Stacey Halls, other book ‘The Familiars’ which is also rated just as highly as this book! SO let’s get into it.

My first impression of this book was that I was expect tears and being upset. The story premise makes my heart race as you are transported back to the 1700s, imagine going back to collect your child to find someone had already claimed her? I’m not a mother, but I am sure if you are it would definitely cause a different type of distress reading this book. Although its a happy ending which did make my heart swell and I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would (I’m an emotional person okay? It doesn’t take much to make me cry!).

It was really, really interesting to learn about The Foundling Hospital and the fact that in the 1700’s this was a real place where if mothers could not afford to look after their child or they lived in poverty etc, they knew they were in good hands until they were fortunate enough to collect them, although unfortunately not all mothers and children are so lucky and eventually when the children are old enough and not collected they are placed into foster care. But at least there is hope for them still and they are cared for. I also enjoyed the historical chapter at the end where it tells you more about it, I never knew something like this existed and next time I am in London I am going to have a look at the foundling building and hopefully visit the museum also!

A strong point in the book was getting the perspective of both women. I felt I could connect and understand both women and how they felt better. I really loved Bess all the way through. Her character was smart, cunning and fantastic. not only that but strong too, to be able to deliver her child to the foundling hospital knowing she cant provide for her properly, I rooted for her throughout the entire book. Stacey Halls really showed that a mothers love knows no bounds as they say.

Therefore I feel there is also a small argument that she is a liar and deceiver when she starts to work for Alexandra, the widow and the woman who stole her child in the first place, as Charlotte’s nanny. This is Bess’s daughter. Of course Alexandra doesn’t know anything about Bess and the two come from completely separate world. But two world very easily merge into one, It’s an unfortunate story of two women who got tangled up in a mess they never expected and all because of a man. When Bess does steal her child back I quite frankly don’t blame her. But she did deceive Alexandra, who trusted her.

I feel character development for Alexandra is also quite significant all the way through, with her confined habits changing towards the end of the book I really feel she came into her own and more confident than the hermit/recluse she was before. Both women really contrast to each other completely, obviously in lifestyle but in personalities too. I thoroughly disliked Bess’s brother from the start, the top deceiver and drunkard. He deserved everything he got.

The storyline itself is incredibly gripping and I read this book in two days. I just couldn’t wait to know what happened and how the story went. I am so grateful for a happy ending and I know I said I was impressed with Alexandras character development and I firmly believe the ending contributes so massively to this. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I closed the book and recommended it to my mum straight away. I knew she would enjoy it.

For the fact I couldn’t put the book down and the storyline was so interesting and gripping, I gave this book 4 out of 5! Highly recommend you get it on your reading lists now!