This is a story of hope and belonging. With bees.
The plot is very simple: a man and his wife want to leave Syria to seek asylum in the UK. This is the story of their journey, the people they meet, and loss. A simple story simply told. The writing is clear and without gore or much detail despite the atrocious events that take place. The narrative at times reads like a fairytale, with facts laid out plainly without emotion. "A week later, Sami died."
But lack of feeling is just one of the things lost, which also includes the love for his wife whose face or eyes are described as beling 'stone'. Memories remain, both good and bad, real and false until he cannot distinguish the correct ones. Each of the refugees has their own suffering but most do not tell. Things are 'locked away' as demonstrated by the symbolism of his dreams about keys.
The strength of this book is the constant theme of bees. In Syria he was a beekeeper and he refers to their colonies and behaviour a lot. He finds and befriends a wingless bee that is ostracised from her colony because she cannot work for it by collecting pollen. He makes her a garden so she can survive, shows her affection, explains about bees - the different types, lifestyle and so on - to fellow refugees. The bees are a symbol of hope and determination.
A lovely story, well written.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is published by Zaffre on 29 April 2019.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.