Reading guide for The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

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The Beekeeper of Aleppo

A Novel

by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri X
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2019, 336 pages

    Jun 2020, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. What did you like most about this book? Were you most drawn to the characters, the writing, the emotional storyline, or learning about a different culture, for instance? Which character did you feel more emotionally connected to—Nuri or Afra—and why?
  2. What about this book surprised you? Did you learn anything about the Syrian refugee crisis that you hadn't previously read in news stories?
  3. Why do you think the author decided to have Nuri narrate the story instead of Afra? How would the book have been different if it was told from Afra's point of view?
  4. Each of the characters processes grief and trauma differently. Afra is literally blinded by her grief and Nuri can't seem to accept the reality of his situation. Why do you think that is? What role do you think gender plays?
  5. When did you figure out that Mohammed was a product of Nuri's imagination? And how did you feel about that revelation?
  6. When setting out to write The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author sought to answer the question "What does it mean to see?" Having finished the book, how would you answer that question?
  7. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is inspired by the author's experience volunteering at a refugee center in Athens, Greece. Why do you think she decided to write this story as fiction rather than nonfiction? Do you think fiction can make a tough subject more accessible and emotionally resonant than news stories?
  8. The author intended for the bees to symbolize hope and life. How do you see that play out over the course of the book?
  9. After finishing the book, describe how you felt in one word.


"And, Nuri, in this country there are rapeseed fields and banks of heather and lavender! Because it rains so much it is full of flowers. And so much green. More than you could ever imagine. Where there are bees there are flowers, and where there are flowers there is new life and hope."



  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender

  1. Pour the honey into a medium, heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Be sure to use a large enough pot because the honey can easily boil over.
  2. Add in the dried lavender and let the honey come to a boil.
  3. Continue boiling for about 5 minutes to let the lavender infuse, then remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the honey through a mesh sieve into a heat-proof container.
  5. Allow the honey to cool, uncovered, until room temperature, at least 1 hour.
  6. Enjoy!



SERVES: 60 pieces

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons orange blossom water*, divided
  • ¾ cup superfine or baker's sugar
  • 6 cups (1 pound 10 ounces) chopped walnuts (pulse in a food processor for a mix of fine and somewhat coarse pieces)
  • 1 ¼ cups homemade or store-bought clarified butter** (aka ghee and samneh), warmed until liquified
  • 26 sheets filo dough*** (12 by 17 inches, about 1⅓ pounds), thawed if frozen
  • 2 tbsp minced, lightly toasted pistachios

  1. Syrup: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring granulated sugar and 1 cup water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice. Reduce heat to an active simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced to a scant 1¾ cups, 10–12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1 teaspoon orange blossom water and let syrup cool.
  2. Filling: In a large bowl, combine superfine sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons orange blossom water, and ⅓ cup syrup. Add walnuts and stir until well blended. Set remaining syrup aside. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with a bit of the butter.
  3. Unroll filo. As you work, keep it covered with a kitchen towel if you feel it's drying. Lay 1 sheet in a pan and brush generously with butter, making sure to cover all the dough. Repeat until you've used 14 sheets (any air bubbles that form will work their way out).
  4. Spoon filling over filo, spread evenly, and press mixture all over with back of spoon, which helps prevent it from falling apart when you eat it. Lay a sheet of filo on top and press it firmly with flat hands. Brush generously with butter, then repeat layering, pressing, and buttering with 5 more sheets. Layer and butter remaining 6 sheets, flattening them with your hands (no need to press).
  5. With a knife, trim shaggy filo edges flush with sides of pan (leave edges in pan for snacking later!). Using knife and a ruler, score filo lengthwise to mark 6 equal strips. Then, starting in a corner, score diagonally across these to create 12 1½ inch cross-strips. Finally, cut along scoring to make triangle and diamond-shaped slices.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F and bake, rotating pan twice for even browning, until filo is deep golden and crisp, including down into cuts, about 35 minutes. Using a soup spoon, evenly coat hot baklava with 1 to 1 ¼ cups of reserved, room-temperature syrup. If the baklava has cooled or the syrup is hot, it won't be crunchy, it will be soggy. (How much syrup is a matter of taste—some people like it sweeter.)
  7. Sprinkle center of each diamond with a generous pinch of pistachios. Let baklava cool in pan on a rack at least 1 hour. Re-cut if needed before serving and cut bigger pieces in half if you like.
*Find orange blossom water at stores with baking and cocktail supplies, and at international markets.

**Find ghee at supermarkets and Indian grocery stores, and samneh at Arabic markets; a blend of butter and oil is the most economical, but all-butter tastes the best.

***Check packages of frozen, paper-thin filo dough carefully for size (you want sheets about 12 by 17 inches) and buy more than 1 box, as the quantity of sheets per pound varies by brand. To help prevent cracking, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, not on the counter.


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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