Publisher: Bonnier Books UK: Manilla Press
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) / Literary Fiction
Release Date: 8th July 2021
Format reviewed: ARC Ebook (with thanks to Netgalley and Bonnier Books UK)
The powerful follow-up to the global bestseller The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Songbirds is a heart-breaking story for our times.
She walks unseen through our world.
Cares for our children, cleans our homes.
Her voice unheard.
She has a story to tell.
Will you listen?
Nisha has crossed oceans to give her child a future. By day she cares for Petra’s daughter, Aliki; at night she mothers her own in Sri Lanka by the light of a phone. Nisha’s lover is Yiannis, a poacher, who hunts the tiny songbirds as they migrate to Cyprus on their way to Africa each winter. He dreams of finding a new way of life, of marrying Nisha.
When Nisha disappears, little Aliki insists she wouldn’t simply run away; they must find her. As Petra learns to take care of Aliki herself, she comes to understand the woman she barely knew, and realises only she and Yiannis will bother to look for her. What they uncover will change them all.
Set on her native Cyprus, Christy Lefteri has crafted a powerful, redemptive story of loss, of the triumph of the human spirit, and of the enduring love of a mother for her child.
Christy Lefteri’s latest novel, Songbirds, is an absolutely stunning read. The prose is so eloquent – expertly delivered – you can lose yourself in the story and the exquisite characters. I was transported into their world, walked their roads, felt the heat of the Cyprus sun and the growing concern for Nisha.
The novel explores the reality of economic migration and the prejudice and ignorance associated with it. It is incredibly real and raw, following the fictional story of Nisha, a woman who, like many, had no choice but to leave her two-year-old daughter, to go work thousands of miles from home. It’s a common reality, women migrating to places where prospects and wages are better so they can provide more adequately for their families. By day they keep the homes and raise the children of their employer, and by night, they raise their own children via tablet or telephone.
Narrated by Nisha’s Cypriot lover, Yiannis and her employer, Petra, we learn Nisha’s story through their memories following her mysterious disappearance. We read of her loves and her losses and the deep sacrifice she chose to make, alongside the growing concern and eventual search for her. When Petra and Yiannis, discover the authorities care nothing for missing migrant women (another storyline taken from reality) Petra and Yiannis have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
I loved everything about this book. As sad and harrowing as it is, it is a beautiful piece of art that is full of hope. Yiannis and Petra, each go on their own journey of discovery and their stories knit together with Nisha’s beautifully, and with such wisdom. It captures so perfectly the love between a mother and child, and how that bond between carer and child can be as fierce and strong.
I particularly appreciated how Yiannis’ work as a poacher offered more commentary on the blatant disregard for life – each bird a beautiful soul that keeps singing in the face of adversity.
Songbirds is a captivating mystery, expertly told and full of wisdom, love and hope. I think it will stay with me always – both its insight and the way it spoke to my heart – and I highly recommend it.