‘Songbirds’ is a moving, thought provoking and sometimes frightening tale that I was engrossed in from page one, indeed I have not read anything I have enjoyed so much for a long time. It is a story of economic migration which revolves around Nisha, a woman from Sri Lanka, who pays what to her is a small fortune in agents fees in order to relocate to Cyprus. This is so she can find employment as a domestic worker in order to support her family back home and pay back the agents fees over time as well.
But Nisha is missing and is nowhere to be found.
Her employer Petra is terribly worried because this is very unlike her maid. Nisha’s lover Yiannis is even more distressed. Both try to look for Nisha and eventually join forces to try to find her. Petra realises that she hardly knows anything about this missing woman who has shared her life and her home for years and she realises just how much she has taken Nisha for granted. During her search she finds out a lot more about her maid and realises Nisha was important to more people than just her and her daughter. Yiannis realises he should have changed his life before now just as Nisha had asked him to.
And the Cypriot police do not seem to care or want to help even when other foreign workers are also reported as missing. ‘Songbirds’ will make you think again about all those people who travel to Europe and elsewhere not just to become maids like Nisha but also to work in service industries like catering, factory work, cleaning and farming. These people are usually invisible to all of us. I had not read Christy Lefteri’s other novel ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ but I went straight out and bought it after reading only a couple of chapters of ‘Songbirds’ because I was enjoying it so much.
This is a thoughtful, involving and delightful book which is just so enjoyable to read especially if you are familiar with Cyprus as it evokes the island wonderfully. I cared about all the characters within these pages and my perception of migrant workers has changed forever because of this haunting book.
Reviewed by Sara Boorman
Published by Manilla Press July 2021
Hardback, ISBN 978-1838773762