Everything that is to be said about the Holocaust has been written already, right?
Well not quite actually.
This astonishing book tells the true story of Slovakian Jew Lale, a confident would be entrepreneur prior to the War, who is sent to the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau along with hundreds of thousands of fellow Jews, as well as multitudes of romanies, all destined it seemed to perish at the hands of the cruellest of captors.
Imprisoned in the spring of 1942, Lale resolves to survive by using his wit, determination, cunning and extraordinary language skills.
He manages to secure the ‘privileged’ role of camp tattooist, whose job it was to permanently mark every prisoner with four crudely scratched numbers which became their sole identity in the eyes of the SS.
What Lale had not reckoned with was falling in love with a girl who bore his mark. This only heightened his determination that he and fellow Slovak Gita would have a future together.
Told through Lale’s eyes, this is a story that cannot be put down. A story of cruelty, degradation, sorrow, death and hardship, but also a story of human spirit, ingenuity, selflessness, incredible will power and true love.
The writing puts you right there alongside Lale and his fellow prisoners as the appalling conditions, sadistic captors and knife-edge existence are brought to life in vivid detail.
The book is extraordinary, powerful, thought-provoking and deeply disturbing. I really loved it.
I was initially drawn to the book due to the Aleppo setting, the ancient Syrian settlement being my favourite city that I have ever visited.
It follows Nuri & Afra, a couple fleeing their war torn country to undertake an arduous journey to Western Europe.
Very cleverly the book concurrently follows two streams of their quest that are intertwined alongside each other – the tortuous, dehumanising, soul-destroying migration over land and sea, together with their less dramatic but no less traumatic existence in a shabby English seaside bed & breakfast as they seek asylum and the right to start a new life in the U.K.
Christy is the daughter of Cypriot refugees and somebody who worked as a volunteer in an Athenian refugee centre. She compassionately draws on her experiences and the incredible stories she has been told to create the central characters, the people they meet and the dangers and hardships they face.
Most of all it is a story of hope in adversity, of life altering situations and of amazing courage and the belief that despair can once again turn into happiness and companionship.
I urge you to read the book and also catch a film called ‘For Sama’ to begin to understand what millions of innocent people have faced and why they continue to risk everything for a second chance.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is available from Amazon and all the usual retailers.