Reviews by Lesley Thomson
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
This is definitely the most memorable book I have read for a long time. A heart-wrenching tale, it is an emotional and profound story of love and triumph of the human spirit.
Nuri is a bee keeper living in Syria, Afra, with his artist wife and Sami their son. Their lives are shattered by the war – Sami is killed, Afra is blinded and Nuri is determined to take her to safety and a new life. Their treacherous journey takes them through Turkey, to the Greek Island of Leros, then Athens.
Eventually, after many months of deprivation and hardship, they arrive in England where they sit with their painful memories hoping they will be granted asylum.
This is a vivid and tragic story written by Christy Lefteri who worked as a volunteer in a refugee centre in Athens. It is from her experiences that she is able to give a compassionate portrayal of the inner turmoil of people who have left everything behind … homes, families and culture, to travel into the unknown.
Lefteri understood the mental anguish that twisted the mind, as well as the physical hardships. Among it all there is still an appreciation of the beauty of nature.
Christi Lefteri, in this account of tragedy, survival and the bond of love, has given a powerful voice to refugees the world over, those who hope to survive to live a better day.
Beautifully written and highly recommended The Beekeeper of Aleppo will not only sadden us, but ignite faith and admiration in the human spirit.
**ISBN 978 1 83877 001 3 – Bonnier UK/Jonathan Ball Publishers
THE FOUNDLING by Stacey Halls
The second of Stacey Halls’ historical novels, and to my mind the better of the two, as the characters have more substance than in her novel The Familiars, The Foundling is set in London in 1754.
Life, as she portrays, was extremely tough for impoverished workers and there was a huge divide between the rich and poor.
Bess Bright, a shrimp seller, shares her home with her father and hard-drinking brother, and knows she is not able to keep the illegitimate baby she is about to have. A heart-wrenching decision to do what others have done, Bess takes her one-day-old baby to the Foundling Hospital.
Started in 1739 by Thomas Coram for abandoned children, mothers could leave their babies according to the luck of a lottery draw.
The babies were well-cared for and educated, and mothers could claim them back when, and if, their circumstances improved. After six years Bess went back to claim her daughter whom she had named Clare, to discover that the child had been adopted the day after she left her there. Thus starts a dramatic tale of how Bess found her daughter, and the consequences of the child now being with another woman.
The descriptions of London in the times are vivid, the plot a little predictable. Of interest was the inclusion of mental health issues such as agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress, and paranoia, alluding to the idea that they did exist years ago, even if not correctly diagnosed.
The Foundling is a pleasant and charming read with a happy ending. The Foundling Hospital is now a museum in London. Thomas Coram was supported in establishing this hospital that only closed in 1954, by the musician Handel, and artist Hogarth.
**ISBN 978 183877 007 5 – Bonnier UK/Jonathan Ball Publishers