Month: October 2021

Book review – The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri

Title: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Author: Christy Lefteri

Publisher: Zaffre (UK) 2019

The author

Christy Lefteri is the daughter of Cypriot refugees. She lives in London and has worked as a volunteer for refugee organisations. Christy has a PhD in creative writing and is the author of three novels. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is her second book.

The book

Nuri, a beekeeper, and his artist wife, Afra, are the main protagonists. They represent thousands of refugees who flee daily from wartorn countries across the world. In order to reach safety and the possibility of a life free from personal threat, Afra and Nuri endure a journey of constant uncertainty in their quest to arrive in England, their chosen country of freedom.

The couple carry trauma, grief and, sometimes, hopelessness after fleeing Syria, their home country. They leave behind their former life and their young son, Sami, who was killed in their backyard by a bomb blast which also rendered Afra blind. The vivid memories and tremendous love for Sami remain with them. Their grief is profound — their loss almost unbearable as their journey takes them to Istanbul, Leros, Athens and finally to London.

This book is heartbreaking, and yet the thread of hope that weaves throughout the story and the human interactions of love and desperation are enough to hold the reader close. The countless side stories about people that Nuri and Afra encounter along the way demonstrate the reality of people’s lives as they flee persecution.

Watch: Christy Lefteri in conversation with Esmeraldo Santiago about The Beekeeper of Aleppo

at youtube, via the aspen institute

Nuri and Afra provide a lens into lived trauma, untreated and endured under extreme circumstances — the story illustrates that human survival depends on many aspects. Often, it’s luck, sometimes it’s the need to manipulate, to stay grounded, to remain hopeful when all seems hopeless, and to hold onto a belief in the future. But most of all, it’s endurance.

Christy Lefteri has written a beautiful but sad and confronting account of the refugee journey and takes the reader into challenging territory. But the power of the writing allows the experience to be understood with compassion, empathy and admiration.

Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche

Ballarat Writers Inc. Review Group, September 2021

Book review – Something to Hide, by Fleur McDonald

Title: Something to Hide

Author: Fleur McDonald

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2021

Fleur McDonald is one of Australia’s favourite authors, having sold over 600,000 copies of her books. She has lived and worked much of her life on farms, and draws inspiration for her writings from these experiences. Her stories are set in regional areas around Australia and her characters reflect the people who own and work the farms.

Red Dust, her debut novel, made her the highest selling debut author of 2009. She has since written 16 novels and two children’s books. Her stories tell of strong women working on the land and of the events that unfold. She has also published the Detective Dave Burrows series of books.

Something to Hide is the fourth in the series of Detective Dave Burrows. In this novel Dave is stationed in Perth, with his wife Melinda and their two children. Dave has recently returned to Perth and his family following a dangerous undercover case he was involved with in outback Queensland. While out shopping Melinda is approached by a stranger who speaks to her about Dave. Later, Melinda relays the conversation to Dave, and he realizes his cover in his previous job has been blown. Knowing the men involved, Dave becomes worried for his family’s safety, and when offered a job in the goldfield town of Barrabine, he accepts it. His wife Melinda is not happy and friction soon develops within their relationship.

Fleur McDonald, her family and life on the farm

at mamamia, 2020

As Dave settles into his new job, he begins to realise he and his family are still at risk from the men involved in his previous job. Melinda becomes frightened and angry, and threatens to leave Dave and take the children with her to her parents’ home. Knowing his family are in danger, and against the wishes of Melinda, Dave makes the decision to hunt down the men who remain a threat to their safety. 

This is a riveting novel, well written and full of tension—within the marriage of Melinda and Dave, and in Dave’s attempt to apprehend the men who seek revenge. Even though this novel is the fourth in the series of Detective Dave Burrows, the story has enough background to enable the reader to understand how Dave and his family have come to this point in their lives.

I enjoyed this novel, became immersed in the lives of Dave and Melinda, and look forward to reading more in the Detective Dave Burrows series.  

Reviewed by: Linda Young

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

Review copy provided by the publisher

Book review – The Riviera House, by Natasha Lester

Title: The Riviera House

Author:  Natasha Lester

Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2021

Natasha Lester is a New York Times bestselling author. Her novels have been translated into many different languages and published around the world. She lives in Perth, Western Australia.

The Riviera House is two stories told in alternating sections: 1940s Paris under Nazi occupation, and 2015 on the French Riviera.

The Paris story finds Eliane Dufont working at the Louvre. She falls in love with wealthy, charismatic artist Xavier Laurent. Xavier gives Eliane an engagement ring, makes love to her, then tells her that he will be leaving for London in the morning – without her! Furious, hurt and feeling used, Eliane throws the expensive ring at Xavier.

The Nazis begin looting Paris. Eliane secretly catalogues the thefts, hoping to trace France’s art treasures after the Allies invade. It is dangerous work. Hiding her knowledge of the German language, Eliane joins the French resistance with her brother Luc and sister Angelique.

The next time Eliane sees Xavier, he is with Field Marshall Hermann Goering. She is shocked and disgusted. She is also afraid that he might give her away because he knows she can understand their German conversations.

Luc, Angelique and Eliane aid the Allied invasion. But as secrets of the resistance are betrayed it becomes evident that there is a traitor among them. Who?

Find out more about art looted by the Nazis

at dw.com

The Riviera story begins in 2015. Sydney woman Remy Lang is hiding from the world on the French Riviera after the death of her husband and daughter. Her interest in art leads her to a catalogue of Hermann Goering’s art thefts, in which she is mystified to find a photo of a painting she owns, one that has always belonged to her family. Thus begins a search for Remy’s past and the origin of the painting, in which she is assisted by Adam Henry-Jones, photographer to the rich and famous. Remy is horrified by their dark discoveries … and can it be true that she is descended from a Nazi?

The Riviera House is two love stories: the first is passionate, dangerous love, betrayal, heroism and finally, horror.  The other is tender love and a mystery to be unravelled.

Natasha Lester weaves an intricate and suspenseful narrative through two contrasting worlds – the desperate poverty and danger that was Paris under the Nazis – and the twenty-first century glamorous world of the super rich. The Riviera House is a compelling read.

Reviewed by: Maureen Riches

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

Review copy provided by the publisher

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