Rating: 4 / 5
Christy Lefteri’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo is the beautiful, affecting story of a husband and wife fleeing war-torn Syria and adapting to life in England as refugees.
Nuri and Afra have a blissful life in Aleppo, Syria with their son and close friends. Both love their work – Nuri a beekeeper and Afra a painter. When the war turns their beautiful city into a desolate, frightening place, Nuri knows they must leave. Afra refuses, though – and tragedy strikes. When Nuri finally convinces Afra to escape, their journey is treacherous and heartbreaking.
Several months later, we explore the couple’s attempts to belong and make sense of life as refugees in England. They struggle with the trauma they’ve endured and navigating receiving refugee status from the government. This is a striking and timely story of love, loss, enduring, and learning to live again.
Please take caution while reading The Beekeeper of Aleppo if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Mental illness
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a fascinating, harrowing story that covers every aspect of the Syrian conflict and the stories of refugees you could ask for. We see Syria pre- and during war; we see Syrian citizens escaping and making their way through and surviving the most desolate of refugee camps; we see refugees trying to assimilate in a new world and navigate the process of seeking asylum; and we see the toll – both physically and emotionally – this trauma takes.
Nuri and Afra are utterly captivating characters, with layers for days. Their mental and physical health, their desires, and their fears are repressed, and yet bursting at the seams to be addressed. Nuri is struggling with his inability to provide for his wife – both monetarily and emotionally. He feels detached, but his desire to reconnect in England with his cousin and fellow beekeeper propels him forward. Afra is blind, frightened, and largely mute – by choice. She is helpless and needs Nuri for every aspect of her life. Their struggles through Europe as refugees are at once disheartening and curiously hopeful.
The novel’s timeline alternates consistently from the couple’s escape and journey to England to their life in England trying to gain asylum. I loved this aspect of the novel – it is it extremely smart, giving you pieces of the story through each time period. This is also very unique, as it essentially tells you how the story will end – the question is not whether they will arrive in England, but rather how they will get there, how much they will have to endure, how they will survive.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is, at its core, a story of survival. Nuri and Afra physically survive their escape, but can they emotionally survive the turmoil that leaving your beloved home, being separated from your best friends and your life’s work, and enduring the pain of displacement and poverty? Can they, in England, be the same people they were in Syria – after all this time? So thought-provoking and beautifully written, I very much recommend this novel!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Beekeeper of Aleppo. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram @bookmarkedbya!