In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope
What will you find from his story?
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 - and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face - they must journey to find each other again.
Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.
Comment: This book got on my radar last year, and the theme was what made me want to read it because not only it is a current theme we should not forget but even more so, we should not ignore and the author used her experience in refugee camps in Greece as inspiration to present one possible history of the countless ones each individual passing by through there certainly carries within...
Syria has been devastated by war and a lack of interest by the ruling forces in what happens to its citizens. Those living in Aleppo aren't an exception and, like so may countrymen, they also decide to escape from an impossible situation. That is how we meet Nuri and Afra, a couple who goes though the process of leaving their country illegally, trying to follow the route of the refugees wanting to live in Europe. As they travel and stop in places with so many other people in similar situations, they get to know some of their stories but the truth is that they carry the loss and the sadness with them. There is a friend waiting in the UK who will help them, but will Nuri and Afra be able to reach that place, where dreams might become reachable again?
I don't want to use this blog as a way to vent my political or social views on what is happening in places I don't really know - and how true it is that TV influences and manipulates the way information reaches those so far away - but how not to be impressed by the situation in countries which are so beautiful, so culturally and historically rich and those ruling don't care in a attempt to gain or maintain power over others. I'm a believer the problem of the refugees is not stopping them from traveling, but finding a way to solve the issues in their countries but, of course, those who can't won't and the interests of some affect the reality of many...
This said, it is obvious the author used her experience working in the transition camps - where refugees stay for a while between travels to yet another waiting place, to highlight the fact we so often ignore that those people aren't just numbers, they are humans whose lives turned upside down and with traumas we cannot imagine.
The author has been inspired by the many people she met and she came up with the characters of Nuri and Afra, a couple whose personal reactions to what happened to them were quite different. When the story begins, Nuri and Afra are already in England, waiting to go through interviews and such in order to see if they will be granted asylum. Therefore, we already know their journey was successful but that didn't detract from the fact, as each chapter goes by, that Nuri, as the character whose POV we get, goes back into his memories of what happened in key moments of that journey, from the moment they decided to leave their country until this (hopefully) last stop.
As one can imagine, this book is heavy on sadness and hopelessness but I can imagine the author talking and spending time with those she met and "collecting" stories, memories, descriptions...the way she writes about what Nuri and Afra had in Syria before the war clearly means there's love and pining for what used to be and I can only suppose it would be what I would feel were that reality to happen in my own country. I think humanity nowadays has a severe difficulty in thinking how to be in someone else's shoes so we believe it couldn't happen to us... but what if it did?
The harshness of what happened in Syria and during their journey escaping isn't easy to go through. However, I must say - can't tell if it was my personal and systematic desensitization towards what is everyday on TV or the fact this was the author's first book - the writing was easy but didn't pull my emotional strings. I felt compassion and sadness over the situation, not the fictional tale or how the author told it. I think I was more moved by the idea this is real, this can and certainly does happen to real people, but otherwise the writing allows the reader to stay out of characters' traumas.
There's a plot, even though that isn't too complex. It basically tells us about the couple's travel and how what they see influences their reactions but there's this expectation on what exactly have they seen and lived through and why certain details remain mysterious regarding their actions at present (while they are waiting to do their interviews). I confess I wasn't too worried about that, as this was worth it more to me due to the experience rather than the outcome, but for a first attempt, I think the author managed to include some doubts here and there.