The Beekeeper of Aleppo
A novel centred on refugees of the West Asian conflict, that talks of retaining hope against all odds...
This is a beautiful book, written from the heart in a style that sings to you. At one level it is the story of Afra, stunned sightless after watching her son die in a blast, and at another level, the story of her husband, Nuri, the book's narrator and the eponymous beekeeper.
Christy's novel magnificently captures their lives in Aleppo as lovers, parents, friends and professionals with their everyday joys and regrets. Afra is an acclaimed artist and Nuri a beekeeper running a thriving business with his cousin, mentor and passionate apiarist, Mustafa. It is the shattering of their lives by the ongoing conflict in West Asia as seen through Nuri's eyes that forms the book's narrative.
At a broader level, Christy's novel is the story of all those compelled to leave home to seek refuge in unknown lands, crossing treacherous deserts and wild seas, frequently becoming victims of individuals and gangs preying on the helpless.
Having spent years in places from where Christy's characters come, I found their voices, even in translation, stunningly authentic, with the Moroccan sounding distinctly different from the Syrian, and the refugee from Ivory Coast having an easy-going insouciance that could not have come from anywhere else.
What Nuri tells us about bees in exquisite, but never overpowering, detail is one of the most delightful parts of the novel. It makes them almost human, wonderfully complementing the characters in their doggedness and persistence against all odds.
The book is one of hope. The love between Afra and Nuri endures and when they finally reunite with Mustafa in England what pervades their minds are only thoughts of going home - "to rebuild the apiaries and bring the bees back to life."
Only someone like Christy Lefteri, herself the daughter of refugees who had helped the likes of Afra and Nuri, could have written such a book. That someone so young could have conjured such a mature and moving work is astonishing, leaving me like the Mole in The Wind in the Willows, "bewitched, entranced, and fascinated."
Courtesy: THE HINDU