Bookies' Favourite: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

I recently found an old memory stick from school and, much to my dismay, got it to work despite feeling like it was the most foreign and dusty artefact to have graced my fingers.! Inside was a treasure cove of goodies. All of my school coursework and essays.

Reading my writing back felt like... a lot, (even I had to skip sentences so I wonder how my teacher felt) but amongst the sheer volume was tiny threads of gold - stuff that I had forgotten, and rediscovered, and it made me want to attack my next book with the same discerning eye.

Sure - it’s nice to read a book and not have to think much into the deeper meaning of it. But it’s also fun to interpret what you read.

After all, the author has poured a lot of their blood, sweat and tears into their labour of love. The least we can do is run off and have a steamy affair with it.

First up we have…

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri

I this book up because I think it’s so important to learn about different cultures and ways of living. It gives us perspective on our lives. How can I moan about getting off work late when families are being torn apart all over the world, waking up unsure whether they will live or die?

This book follows a Syrian man and his wife as they flee their home and make the brave journey to seek asylum in the UK.

But this is the thing - it’s not just a book about war and death. It’s a book about life too.

You read about the shock and horror happening to refugees a lot in the news, but it is hard to fully understand the severity of what is going on in a column or two.

Christy opens up a whole new portal of understanding in the way she paints the picture. Similar to my favourite author Khaled Hosseini, she does just that - she paints a beautiful picture. A past life of vivaciousness, a beautiful and colourful city which now turned dark.

This is also seen in the fact that Nuri’s wife Afra, who was once an artist, is now blind from the bloodshed of war. Their worlds cave in on them everyday, and you can’t help but feel your heart break as you read on.

The book flicks between past and present which allows you to mourn the characters with every turn of the page - we come to realise how broken they have become with each passage of time passed.

There are so many bee references littered throughout the book, which, in my opinion, serves a deeper meaning. You’ve only got to look at the headlines to see how these real people are treated as nameless numbers, negative depictions such as “swarming over” (David Cameron in 2015) draws a closeness with the flying insects. And that’s what I love about the bee analogy that Christy uses.

Our kind and gentle narrator, Nuri, shows us just how misunderstood bees are from his fond memories of getting to know them.They are not fearsome, they are fearful.They should be tended to, handled with love, taken care of. I think the obvious parallels are not to be mistaken, a deliberate move from Christy to illustrate just how comfortable the British media and other first world countries have got with dehumanising migrants.

Nuri’s decision to make the risky escape to the UK is one he toils with because he doesn’t want to abandon his bees. Eventually the hives are burnt and destroyed by the soldiers, which although a bleak picture, doesn’t compare to the unbearable imagery when humans come into play.

The sheer pain you feel when reading about the characters and their hardships is difficult to put into words, but that’s why I believe it’s so important to read it for yourself. Because this stretches beyond fiction - this is real life.

This book gives you a close look into scenes you could otherwise spend your whole lives unaware of. And although some people might choose to avoid being faced with those haunting and horrifying images, the reality is that the people involved don’t have the luxury of choosing what they are and aren’t subjected to.

And when you are so lucky to have been dealt privilege in your life, you mustn't lose sight of that.

One of the most important things you can do with the tools so many of us were not lucky enough to be gifted in our lifetime, is use them to search into other people’s experiences, and gain understanding and knowledge to help. Taking the time to read this heartbreaking yet beautiful thought-provoking novel is a good place to start.

I stumbled across this quote and it really got me thinking:

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Unfortunately, evil has existed since the beginning of time. You learn about it for years in history class, and you wake up to it everyday in the news. We can’t banish evil, but we can drown it out with good. That’s the only way you lessen its impact and make things a bit better.

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

— Warsan Shire

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