A love story set against the backdrop of war-torn Aleppo has already notched up several big international deals and looks set to be one of the hot books at the Frankfurt Book Fair which begins on 10 October.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri has sold to Ballantine (Penguin Random House) in the US and Bonnier Books in the UK, with other deals to France (Le Seuil), Italy (Piemme), Germany, Holland, Spain and Turkey already concluded. At the time of writing, Arabic rights are still available and Beirut-based Hachette Antoine has already expressed interest.
In the UK, the title was bought by Bonnier Books’ MD of adult trade publishing Kate Parkin who called it “a testament to courage and the power of love”. She acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in two books from Dublin-based agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor. The novel is about a couple whose love for each other enables them to meet suffering with resilience and compassion. Bonnier says: ‘It tells not only the terrifying physical journey Nuri and Afra face in their escape from Aleppo – a story ripped straight from today’s headlines – but also of their journey back to each other in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.
Parkin said: “The Beekeeper of Aleppo is extraordinary. There’s a simplicity, a power, a compassion in the story Christy Lefteri tells that speaks to us on a completely different level. Like The Tattooist of Auschwitz, it shows us that an individual can be bigger than their oppression, that even in the worst of circumstances, humanity can shine through. Exquisitely written, this is a book with the power to raise and inspire. I am proud to be publishing it.’
In the US, Ballantine said: “This novel can provide American readers with the connection they need to the Syrian war and its fallout – [it can] put human faces on the tragedy of that war, which felt so far away. It’s a book that also brings understanding to the immigrant/refugee experience, which is incredibly important for Americans to understand at this moment in time. It’s building this collective consciousness and appealing to people at their core, to their hearts. This is what the best fiction can do. And it’s when we read a book like this that we are spurred to action, that our compassion is awakened. With so many ongoing—and likely future—conflicts in our world, a novel like Christy’s is required reading.”
Lefteri was born in London in 1980 to Greek Cypriot parents who moved to London in 1984 during the Turkish invasion. She completed a degree in English and a Masters in creative writing at Brunel University. She taught English to foreign students and then became a secondary school teacher before leaving to pursue a PhD and to write. Her novel A Watermelon, A Fish and A Bible was published by Quercus in the UK in 2010.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is partly based on her experience of working with refugees in Greece. She said: “The moment I saw the beautiful publishing proposal that the team at Bonnier Books UK had put together, I knew that my novel had found its perfect home. I thought back to the work I did in Athens, to the amazing people I met and the heart-breaking journeys they had made. The story is so close to my heart and I was blown away by Bonnier Books UK’s response and passion. I look forward to the journey ahead.”