Songbirds, by Christy Lefteri
Published by Manilla Press, 8th July 2021
Genres: Historical fiction, mystery
Petra, newly widowed and struggling, hires Nisha to care for her daughter. Nisha left her own daughter behind in Sri Lanka to find work in Cyprus and has not seen her for many years. Yiannis rents the upstairs apartment in Petra’s house, has a secret relationship with Nisha and another secret: he is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds which migrate past the island each year.
When Nisha suddenly vanishes, nobody cares, she is only a domestic worker after all. The only people desperate to find her are Petra and Yiannis, although for different reasons. As they search for Nisha, both realise how little they actually knew her and what they uncover will change them all.
Having read and loved The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by the same author, I was really excited to pick up this new book. And it didn’t disappoint. Unlike in The Beekeeper of Aleppo, where the focus is on one character and their life and struggles, in Songbirds we are presented with multiple characters who are brought together by one person.
I love Christy Lefteri’s writing and I found this book, once again, beautifully written and absolutely heart-breaking. The fact that this story is inspired by real events and accounts from domestic workers in Cyprus made it all the more poignant. Although based in reality, it reads like pure fiction and it is very hard to imagine living that way.
The main character of the book is Nisha, who has disappeared. The reader learns all about her, about her life, her past and her decision to leave her child behind in Sri Lanka. But we never actually hear anything from her (until the very end). We only find out about her through others and are only presented with a portrayal of her as seen by others. I found this a really interesting choice for the author to make. It goes to show how much of someone’s identity can be made up from other people’s perspectives, but also how little we can truly know about someone who shares our life.
My rating: 4/5