Through the Reading Glasses – March 2023

By Janet Moore

How can it possibly be March? It snowed, it thawed, it snowed lots more and then froze solid. Here we are with south sides snow-free, while north-facing yards and roofs are white as can be. The first two months of 2023 were lost in some excellent books, and I’m here to share them with you.

Christy Lefteri’s “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” is a refugee story that begins where the Syrian desert meets the city of Aleppo. Nuri and Afra Ibrahim (and lovely Sami) earn their living as beekeeper and artist, respectively. When the Syrian civil war becomes too dangerous, first his friend and employer Mustafa leaves, closely followed by the Ibrahims minus one. Their journey is everything we hear in the news, arduous and terrifying, until they reach England. Checks and balances occur along the way, and I won’t share the details, but the ending is quite satisfying.

“The Whalebone Theatre” by Joanna Quinn is a very thick novel that has to be read word for word. The three children at its heart, Christabel, Florence and Digby (otherwise known as Crista, Flossie, and Digs), are actually cousins and half-siblings. In the period between the wars and into World War II, they forge an alliance that prepares them for adventure, outside relationships, and the hardships and dangers of the war years. The theatre they create, Shakespearean in language and plot, presages all they will encounter and mostly survive. The beautiful language is what makes this, another English war story, so completely compelling.

Etaf Rum’s “A Woman Is No Man” deserves to be read for all the meanings one can grab from the title. In the Palestinian section of Brooklyn, New York City, families strive to hold in their hearts and daily lives the memories and customs of their beloved homeland. However, each new generation, especially the one born in the United States, pushes out into contemporary life more and more in dress, attitude, education, and dreams. For the women, it’s a constant struggle to maintain family ties while achieving personal success.