She walks unseen through our world.

Cares for our children, cleans our homes.

Her voice unheard.

She has a story to tell.

Will you listen?

Nisha has crossed oceans to give her child a future. By day she cares for Petra's daughter, Aliki; at night she mothers her own in Sri Lanka by the light of a phone.

Nisha's lover is Yiannis, a poacher, who hunts the tiny songbirds as they migrate to Cyprus on their way to Africa each winter. He dreams of finding a new way of life, of marrying Nisha.

When Nisha disappears, little Aliki insists she wouldn't simply run away; they must find her. As Petra learns to take care of Aliki herself, she comes to understand the woman she barely knew, and realises only she and Yiannis will bother to look for her. What they uncover will change them all.

Set on her native Cyprus, Christy Lefteri has crafted a powerful, redemptive story of loss, of the triumph of the human spirit, and of the enduring love of a mother for her child.

Our Review

Songbirds is a haunting and highly emotive read highly influenced by real events in Cyprus in which five female migrant domestic workers and two children disappeared. The authorities failed to investigate because it was assumed they had chosen to move on. 

"Songbirds is a story migration and crossing borders: it is about searching for freedom, for a better life, only to find oneself trapped. It is a story about the way in which systemic racism exists often unquestioned, relying upon prejudice and nationalistic ideas to survive. It is a story about learning to see each and every human being in the same way as we see ourselves."

Songbirds tells the tale of Nisha, a live-in nanny from Sri Lanka who disappears unexpectedly one night leaving behind her prized possessions. Her story is told from the point of view of the man who loves her, Yiannis and her employer, Petra. 

"One day, Nisha vanished and turned to gold.

She turned to gold in the eyes of the creature stood before me. She turned to gold in the morning sky and in the music of the birds. Later in the shimmering melody of the maid from Vietnam who sang at Theo's restaurant. Later still, in the faces and voices of all the maids that flowed along the streets like a trubulent river of anger, demanding to be seen and heard. This is when Nisha exists. But let's go back. We need to go back."

Petra initially is pretty unlikeable, only seeing Nisha essentially as her property not as a person in her own right. It is only when she is no longer there that she begins to question who Nisha really is.

"I had never thought about her before. I had failed to recognise that she, too, was a woman with pain and hopes." 

Songbirds highlights the way in which migrant women come looking for better life chances only to find themselves at risk of modern slavery. At best they have their movements on days off restricted by their employer and little say over their personal lives. At worst they are at risk of prostitution, abuse and financial abuse. 

Songbirds is a beautifully written and emotive story in and of itself with compelling characters but it is so much more powerful when you think of the take home message:

"When you clump people together and don't understand their personal stories, you can make up any bullshit and convince yourself it's the truth." 

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 5/5

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