Cover Image: Songbirds

Songbirds

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Member Reviews

“I imagined that birds have no memory, that they live only in the present, that the past washes away behind them and disappears like each wave on the ocean.”

Oh how I loved the Beekeeper of Aleppo. Unfortunately, this book didn’t hit me in the same way and I even think it missed the mark. The author's motivation for writing this story is great, but I felt like the focus was more on Petra and Yiannis, when it really should have been Nisha's story. I just couldn’t connect with the characters and the whole bird thing kind of distracted me.
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Beautiful cover.
Moving and well written. Cyprus, such a delightful place to the tourist, the indescribable feeling of the green line, haunting and quiet.
Nisha has a tragic life, born in Sri Lanka, she works hard to help her family, falls in love only to loose her husband in a mine disaster, she has a daughter and mother to support. Her only option is to get work in another country like many of her compatriots, this is done through an agency putting her into debt. The stories of the other women are related, some are treated badly, abused and beaten, all are mostly invisible. When women start to disappear there is little help given to their friends or employers by the police. 
Lots of emotions and frustrations.
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Nisha is a maid for Petra on the island of Cyprus. She has come there to earn money for her own daughter, Kumari, who remains behind in Sri Lanka. Other women lead a similar existence, but the local authorities aren't interested in them and when Nisha goes missing, Petra's concerns are dismissed out of hand. Yet Petra knows Nisha wouldn't disappear without taking the things that matter to her - personal items, her passport - and decides to search for her.

Yiannis is involved in the illegal trade in songbirds that he is capturing with Seraphim. As the novel progresses, we see him grow increasingly disillusioned with this life. He is in love with Nisha and wants to marry her. Like Petra, he is disturbed by Nisha's disappearance and wants to find out what has happened to her.

This is a story that deals with systemic racism - the way a person can exist and yet go largely unnoticed by the society around them, only important as a source of cheap labour or exploitation for sex. Very few care about the fate of migrant women, but those who do face considerable barriers in getting concerns taken seriously.

In the end, Nisha's fate is discovered, along with four other women who also went missing.

What the story is also about is love - the love of a mother for her child. Nisha regularly phones her daughter in Sri Lanka whilst acting as the mother figure for Aliki. This contrasts with Petra, who finds the mother-daughter relationship difficult due to the death of her husband before Aliki was born, but gradually this changes. There is also Yiannis's love for Nisha and his quiet determination to find out the truth, not just for himself but for her daughter.

This story will involve you emotionally and you will not find it easy to let go after you finish reading.

Christy Lefteri is a skilled writer and I will certainly read more books by her.

I was sent an advance review copy of this book by Bonnier Books UK, in return for an honest appraisal.
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Loved this book. So beautiful and sad. Thought provoking at the same time. As with her other works, Christy Lefteri once again highlights a real issue in society with an excellent book. Highly recommended. 5 stars from me!
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“After the war, I learned a lesson I would never forget: how a person can disappear inside themselves, and that, sometimes, like my father, they are never able to find their way back.” Christy Lefteri
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Songbirds sheds light on the plight of migrant domestic workers in Cyprus 🇨🇾 and this book was partly influenced by real life events, where five female migrant domestic workers and two children went missing. Their disappearances were ignored because they were foreign, and it was only when one of the bodies was found two years later that the murders of these women and children were brought to light. In Songbirds, Nisha left her native Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 , nine years ago, to find work in Cyprus so that she could earn money to support her mother and daughter who she had to leave back home in Sri Lanka. She disappears one night, and then we learn how Nisha came to Cyprus.
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The story is written from the perspectives of Nisha's employer Petra and her lover Yiannis- the reader never hears the perspective of Nisha. I initially found this frustrating- the whole book is about the disappearance of Nisha yet we never actually hear her voice. But I suppose by doing this Lefteri is highlighting the voicelessness of migrant workers worldwide. In the author’s note, Lefteri makes an interesting point about what constitutes “a choice” when it comes to leaving your country of origin- we see migrants as choosing to leave their homeland for work and a better life, but is it really a choice when the options at home are so bleak? A thought provoking read 4/5
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I read “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” and found it a compelling but sad story so I was pleased to receive a review copy of the author’s new book.
I found Songbirds to be a heartbreaking read which I felt could only end one way. The treatment of the maids in Cyprus was quite shocking. When Petra’s maid, Nisha goes missing the police refuse to look for her which is incredible. The fact that the maids are fearful to reveal that they have relationships, frightened that they might  lose their jobs, feels like something that would happen in the nineteenth century, not in a modern day European country.
Petra and Yiannis were interesting characters. Petra was so grief stricken at the loss of her husband that she was not able to relate to her daughter. Nisha becomes more of a mother to her.
Yiannis is a poacher but he has a good heart. He does not enjoy his work as can be seen when he rescues one of the birds but he cannot see a way out of what he is doing.
Songbirds was a book which made me think about the treatment of others and the sacrifices some people make in order for them to allow their families have enough money to ensure a bright future. I could not  imagine having to leave a young child in order to find work abroad. Nisha was brave and wise, characteristics she has handed down to her daughter, Kumari.
There is lots to talk  about in this book and I expect it would make a good novel for book groups.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Another beautiful and haunting book by Christy Lefteri. Beautiful story, likable characters and a sad ending. This story packs all the punches and does not sugar coat the world.
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well this broke my heart 😭

I listened to the audiobook of Songbirds 🎧 and it was so immersive. The author writes so beautifully and with such imagery. She describes everything in great detail which makes it feel vivid and real. Maybe that is why I found it so heartbreaking as the story really came alive. 

Synopsis: Nisha travelled from Sri Lanka to Cyprus to give her child a future. In Cyprus, she cares for Petra's daughter in the day; at night she mothers her own little girl via the iPad. 
Nisha's lover, Yiannis, is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds on their way to Africa each winter. His dreams of a new life, and of marrying Nisha, are shattered when she vanishes. No one cares about the disappearance of a domestic worker, except Petra and Yiannis. As they set out to search for her, they realise how little they know about Nisha. 
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I had enjoyed The Beekeeper of Aleppo so much and I was keen to read more by this author. I’m so glad I listened to the audiobook as the narrators for Yiannis and Petra were so authentic as they managed to bring the characters to life. The story explores the subject of immigration, the plight of migrants, particularly women, and acts as reminder to open our eyes to what is happening around the world and the conditions others live in. No one seemed to care that Nisha, a domestic worker was missing; only Petra and Yiannis. I was with these characters searching for Nisha. I was totally wrapped up in the story and desperate to find out what happened. This book really did break my heart and was so powerful and thought provoking. 😩

Beautiful writing, complex characters and a compelling mystery. If you liked The Beekeeper of Aleppo, then I would recommend Songbirds. Just make sure you have tissues…PLENTY 😭 And yes I know I cry a lot reading books okay?! 😂
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#Songbirds by #ChristyLefteri is poignant, and I much preferred it to #TheBeekeeperOfAleppo Songbirds is full of imagery and symbolism as it relays the plight of immigrant domestic workers in Cyprus. I like the author’s choice that we never hear the voice of the main character Noah’s but hear her life through the eyes of others. I learned that there are real life ‘Nisha’s’ - the disappearance and murder of immigrant domestic workers, so sad. Many thanks to #netgalley for gifting me an #arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Songbirds by Christy Lefteri
I had read The Beekeeper of Aleppo so I was very keen to read this new book by the same author.  Again it deals with the problems which those on the edge of society encounter.  This is the story of Nisha, a maid from Sri Lanka, working in Cyprus.  She has left her daughter in the care of her mother in order to try and earn money. She works caring for Petra’s 9 year old child, Aliki.  Petra is a widow but is in a relationship with her lodger, Iannis, who is a redundant banker.  He makes a living by illegally poaching songbirds. The book interweaves the story of her life in Cyprus where many middle class people have domestic servants from overseas and the life of her daughter living in Sri Lanka with her grandmother.When Nisha disappears the police show no interest in finding her so Petra and Iannis decide to search for her themselves.  The story is based on real events in Cyprus when it came to light that a number of domestic servants had gone missing and the police had done little or nothing to investigate.
It is an emotive story and I was fascinated by the lives of these domestic servants and the way in which they are exploited by those from the west.  Workers in Eurpoe would not tolerate the hours or conditions which they assume their servants will accept without complaint.
'Songbirds' is a moving story that will stay with me. Cyprus is very well conjured up and the imagery around the poached birds is very effective. It is a timely novel about racism and exploitation that makes you think deeply.
Many thanks to the author, the publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
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oh my goodness, what a novel. I loved the Beekeeper of Aleppo and this blew me away for a second time. The language is powerful and really evokes the landscape and the time. It opened my eyes to a time and area I was sadly unaware and ignorant of and gives beauty to Nisha - an immigrant who is unable to tell the world her story. You are hooked, following the hunt for our missing person touching on class, race and who really cares when someone lower down the chain disappears. So sad and beautiful.
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Sad and beautiful, another poignant read from Christy Lefteri.

Set in Cyprus, the story concentrates on Nisha - a Sri Lankan maid, who left behind her 2 year old daughter ten years ago, in order to be able to send money home. She talks to her daughter on a tablet most nights, but the physical love she has to give goes to Aliki, daughter of Petra for whom she works.

When Nisha goes missing, no one in authority wants to know - she's just another expendable maid - and so it's up to Petra, and to Yiannis, Nisha's lover to pursue the truth.

Heartbreaking and raw, this is a story that rings true - and brings the whole subject of domestic servitude to the fore.
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I absolutely loved the Beekeeper of Aleppo and so I couldn't wait to pick this book up. The book is beautifully written and filled with symbolism which seems like a key theme for this author.  The narrative was so engaging and kept me turning the pages. This book had such great depth and a truly harrowing storyline about seeking refuge. It is told through the narrative of multiple people discussing the one person which made this novel even more unique!
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Unfortunately life has got in the way and I haven’t had a chance to read and review this book, but it’s one I’m hoping to get to soon
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Do you ever get worried when a book is so good, you fear it can't be followed up? After loving The Beekeeper Of Aleppo I was excited to read this new book from the same author. And I needn't have worried as we are in safe hands with Christy Lefteri who once again gives the reader another book of beautiful, heartbreaking storytelling. 

This time we are transported to Cyprus and the numerous young women who come from Sri Lanka and Vietnam to find work and send money home to their relatives. Nisha is one of those women. A widow, she leaves her two year old daughter in Sri Lanka, to work as a maid and nanny in Cyprus, for Petra, who herself has just lost her husband. Nisha does everything for Petra and brings up her daughter Aliki, like her own. But then one night, Nisha mysteriously disappears.

After a few days Petra goes to the police to report Nisha missing. But they do not care. It is up to Petra to try and solve the mystery and bring Nisha back. 

We find out more about Nisha from her friends and Yiannis, her upstairs neighbour and secret lover. He is a poacher and catches rare songbirds which are an illegal delicacy. Once again nature is weaved delicately through the book. He earns good money but grows a conscious and wants to get out. He dreams of a life with Nisha. And he is distraught at her disappearance. 

It isn't until Nisha is gone that Petra realises she has taken her for granted. Nisha has worked and lived with Petra for 9 years. Brought up her child. But she's a stranger to Petra. Petra has treated her like an employee rather than a friend. Petra realises there is so much she didn't know. Including the other maids stories and how they are treated. 

I don't want to say much more for fear of spoiling it. But this is a tender, haunting and poignant book inspired by real life events. Thank you so much to the publisher for allowing me to read this.
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Songbirds - Christy Lefteri

A truly beautifully written novel, and will definitely stay with me for a while, although heart breaking. The descriptions of the scenes and characters were so well done. The only thing that I did not like was the slower pace, as I do tend to like a book that I can't put down.
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After loving The Beekeeper of Aleppo I was intrigued to read more by Lefteri. 

This story is based on true life disappearances of domestic workers in Cyprus. I do think reading the authors note is important here. I found it added to the story and how I took it. 
Knowing this was based on true events it made this harder and more heartbreaking. 

Lefteri writing is beautiful. Sad but beautifully done. The pacing felt perfect. I didnt find myself struggling (minus just my own mood which was 100% me and not the book) 

We never get to hear from Nisha herself. But we get to see how those around her saw her. The close bond of Aliki and the impact she had on her life. How much Yiannis loved her. We also get to learn a little about how she keeps a relationship with her daughter that she sadly had to leave behind. 

The police angered me. Nisha life was important. Just as the other women and children's lives were important. It shouldn't matter where you are from, if something happens to you you deserve a real investigation into it. They deserved more. Imagine the lives that could have been saved if the police took the first disappeared seriously instead of brushing it away like they don't matter. 

Also hearing the killer doing it because he knew no one would be looking for them so it was easier. It was heartbreaking and angered me. 

Overall this was difficult at times but important to read.
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Stunning. Beautiful. I was so excited to read this and it more than lived up to my pre-conceived, resoundingly positives, notions. Moving and emotive. 

I purchased this one as the EARC copy was archived before I could download. Another book I would highly recommend!
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💡Keywords:
Migrants
Institutionalised racism
Loss

Following the massive success of The Beekeeper of Aleppo, I knew I had to read Christy Lefteri’s next novel, Songbirds.

Set in Cyprus, Songbird follows the characters of Petra and Yiannis on their emotional journey after the disappearance of Nisha, a Sri Lankan maid and nanny.

What Lefteri brings to light is the anguish that many experience, making the choice to leave their homelands so that they can find work elsewhere to support their families.

I also loved the way in which Lefteri identifies the racism that migrants are faced with.

The novel is presented as a duel narrative, and I really enjoyed how the story unravels between the two characters.

Personally, I preferred Songbirds to Beekeeper, and so would definitely recommend to everyone!
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This is such a sad and poignant book.  It discusses so many issues (poaching, human rights, mother-daughter relationships, friendship, parenting at a distance, human-traffikking and many more), a mystery and a romance, without being heavy handed.  It deals a few punches, provoking thought.  

The descriptions of life in Cyprus and the island itself were very interesting.  It is narrated by two characters, Petra the employer and Yiannis the lover.  Both should have known Nisha and her circumstances better.  Both had a touching faith that she would not have left without saying goodbye.  They knew something was wrong.  

This is a slow moving novel but it is a compelling story and very well written.  It will stay with you for days after you have finished it.
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