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Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  279 ratings  ·  44 reviews
On Saturday, September 9, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. The city’s vast wealth created centuries earlier by powerful Levantine dynasties, its factories teemed with Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Jews. Together, they had created a majority Christian city that was unique in the Islamic worl ...more
Hardcover, 426 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Gerald Sinstadt
In the battle for supremacy in Asia Minor between Greece and Turkey, the city of Smyrna (now Izmirs suffered horrendous collateral damage. Until the outbreak of the first World War, Smyrna was a predominantly happy multinational community. Largely thanks to benevolent Levantine employers, the inhabitants prospered; thanks to that prosperity, the Levantine families led an existence reminiscent of the palmy days of the Raj. On the outbreak of war, Britain and her allies backed Greece while Turkey ...more
I chose to read this book to augment my research for the novel I'm writing on the Chios Massacre. In addition to my particluar interest, I found this book an excellent explanation and description of one of the major upheavals of the 20th century. A beautiful,wealthy, and cosmopolitan city in Turkey was destroyed, at least 260,000 people were slaughtered, and over 300,000 were refugees that finally escaped from the huge conflagration set by the Turks. Mr. Milton successfully wove together the mem ...more
Ron Willoughby
This story was overwhelming at times. Saddened by tragic events and the apathy and complacency of so many who could have made a difference. No country involved or aware came out looking like the 'good guys'. Not England, America, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, no one. There were moments when it felt like I was reading the prequel to Romeo Dallaire's 'Shake Hands with the Devil'. As if Rwanda was just 'a whole lot of history repeating itself'.

Two heroes emerge. And thanks to Giles Milton's resear
This book starts off beautifully. For the first 50 or so pages the reader finds out about a fantastic, idyllic city and then get a foreboding of doom creeping in, setting the pace for a real page-turner.

However, it is marred by several serious flaws and ultimately falls flat on its face.

To begin with, for some reason Milton decides to give extreme focus to the Leventine families of Smyrna. Sure, the lives of the rich is something lots of people are interested in, but the lives of the rich do not
Beautiful, tragic history of Smyrna (now Izmir), the only majority Christian city in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. The author begins by giving the lead-up to World War I, focusing on the wealthy Levantine families of Smyrna and their luxurious Edwardian lifestyles. He then covers the war, explaining that many of the city's residents supported the allies over the Central Powers (on whose side the Ottoman Empire fought). Next, the book covers the aftermath of the war, pa ...more
I wanted to give this 2.5 stars but, since that wasn't an option, I had to scale back my rating. The subject matter is endlessly fascinating, but, sadly, this book doesn't do it justice. It is way too long. Three-quarters of it bows and scrapes to British Levantine families, which gets downright annoying. Despite the book's obsequiousness (or because of it), the Levantines come across as complete ponces and dandies - and maybe they were. As a reader, I was not in the least inclined to identify w ...more
Bahadır Balibaşa
If you would like to learn about what happened in Symrna at 1922 from almost independent sources, this book has plenty of information about it.
I didn’t know many details of tragic history of Smyrna and the catastrophe the city. The author Giles Milton has done his research in a brilliant way using resources from all side of those involved in what became one of histories major catastrophes of the modern age, using eyewitness accounts and the memories of survivors. The book is well written and once you started it you don’t want to put it down. Although there are many historical facts here, the reading is easy. This is great piece of hist ...more
Stan Murai
Smyrna was one of the Ottoman empire's great commercial center, a rich and cosmopolitan city, whose vast wealth had largely been created by the Levantine families (Latin Christians, mostly of Italian and French origin) who ran businesses and factories, where Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Jews worked together. It was a unique Christian majority city, but part of the Islamic World. Even during the first world war, it was a place \where the various ethnic, religious communities lived in tolerance a ...more
Jess Holdstock
A little slow to start, as the book is busy painting a picture of "paradise", which is a slightly one-sided view of life in Smyrna pre 1922. But when things kick into gear, it is a graffic, horrifying and moving account of the events there when the Turks took over. I never knew of this episode in history, it isn't something that is taught in the curriculum, nor spoken about in any memorials. Maybe because there is still such disagreement over where responsibility for the atrocities really lay. I ...more
Once again, the political whims and fancies of people in a meeting room far away lead to decisions affecting lives they know nothing about. Power is the only concern, and Milton drives home this point pretty well.

What the book lacks, and I agree with a previous review, is the depth of interviews of Smyrna's survivors. Too much attention is given to the well-to-do Levantine families. The other communities are virtually non-existent. Including them would have made this book a whole lot richer.
A sobering read- well written and informative- capturing the utter devastation and massive loss of life that was the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Yet, for the majority of the western world it seems to have slipped under the radar of Modern History, with many not even aware of the extent of tragedy that unfolded its ugly tentacles in such a cosmopolitan and harmonious corner of the world. So many Greeks and Armenians were sacrificed for the sake of modern Turkey! This factual recount broke my heart ju ...more
A brilliant account of the Great Catastrophe in Smyrna. Despite the fact that it is not a happy read, it is a mind boggling look at what countries will and will not do at times of turmoil and crisis. My emotions were on a roller coaster the whole time I was reading it. From shame and anger at the Greeks to anger towards the Turks to frustration towards the various allies for their inaction. It is easy to come away despising, even hating the Turks for what they did, but that is only because their ...more
The London-based journalist, Giles Milton provides an insightful look into the tragic story of post WWI Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) in his latest work Paradise Lost. The destruction of the rich, diverse city of Smyrna is a tragic tale of expansionist political goals, mass population exchange, the formulation of modern Turkey, and what became one of largest humanitarian efforts in world history. Located on the Aegean Sea, the ancient cosmopolitan city was overtaken and burned down in 1922 ...more
A slow read so far, but I'm starting to get into it. A shocking story that gives some perspective to current enmity between the Turks, Greeks, and Armenians.

Update: the book definitely picked up at the end, although the story of the Whitalls and Girauds got lost in the tragedy of the entire city. The narrative that really got me was how people survived the period during the fire and evacuation, and barely anything was mentioned about the levantine families. I understand that the author used the
Steve Cran
The city of Smyrna, pearl of the Middle East, located in Ottoman Turkey. It was home to not on ly Turks but also Greeks, Europeans (called Levantines), Armenians and Jaws. World War 1 changed everything. True governor Rahimi Bey kept Smyrna out of the action but with the arrival of thee Greek things changed. With an aim to regaining the lost Byzantine Empire the Greek Army captures most of of Western Turkey and massacres many a Turk. Kemal Ataturk launched a counter offensive gained back the Los ...more
John Hutt
Excellent read about a series of horrendous massacres which occurred in the Anatolian city of Smyrna (now Izmir) in the years following the 1st World War. No country and few individuals come out of the story with any credit. The only hero was a hitherto insignificant American missionary who single handedly organised a fleet of ships to evacuate the city when it appeared that thousands more would perish on the quay.
The "Paradise" was largely that of the Levantine trading elite, mainly European in
Some parts of this book will feel quite familiar for those who have read Eugenides' Middlesex novel, or the scholarly "Ionian Vision" on the disastrous Greek campaign in Asia Minor after WWI. Yet this is non-fiction (unlike Middlesex) and easy to read (unlike Ionian Vision). The author clearly focused mainly on English-language sources by the local upper-class Levantine trading families, so other ethnicities and social classes get short shrift. In the end, he manages to paint a vivid picture of ...more
A tragic history in so many ways. Bit of an Anglocentric viewpoint but a very good read, nevertheless.

Well researched, with a compelling thesis.
it is nice book
Frank Roberts
The catastrophe that was World War I had lasting repercussions throughout the world, including in the area that had formally been the Ottoman Empire. This book is a marvelous and very engrossing account of the fate of the city of Smyrna (now Izmir) in Turkey, a city that had been multi-ethnic, with large Greek, Armenian, and European minorities. After the horrible Greco-Turkish war that followed WWI, Smyrna was caught in one of the worst human disasters in modern history. A fascinating account.
Scott Chapman
A really excellent book that tackles a very difficult subject with balance and insight.
Interesting so far...although I am ready to move on from some of these characters in the beginning.

Update - Done reading. This turned out to be a really good read. The beginning was like dragging a truck tire, but once it got a little more interesting it will draw you in. I also read Hemingway's short story on this immediately following completing it. Would definitely recommend but again, just get through the beginning and it will turn out to be a good read.
Good old classic storytelling - from one side to the next - swashbuckling bad guys, charismatic good guys, the mysterious Levantines and their millions and their famous parties by lamplight, and then the Brits and French sticking their foot in it repeatedly. Smyrna's fate was always up in the air, and the wars and the violence raised the stakes too high. Amazed how recently it all went down; the human memory is fickle.
Marina Leonidhopoulos
The city and events I'd heard about from my grandparents and read about in books by a variety of -mainly- Greek authors, seen from a different angle. Milton's story complements the ones I'd heard frist hand from my relatives, rather than the ones I'd read about; it helped me better understand the culturally fascinating society my ancestors came from and explained why it was hard for them to adapt to mainland Greece reality...
After WWI, the "big" powers, especially Great Britain, in the form of David Lord George, thought that they knew what was best for Greece and Turkey. Their meddling only helped the Turkish nationalists and led to the complete annihilation of the city of Smyrna/Izmir. I know that is a broad statement.

The descriptions of the massacres and destruction of the city was known as paradise are heartbreaking and haunting.
Its been a while since a book has induced a dual sense of revulsion and fascination in me! Kudos :-)
A wonderfully written and researched account of a dark moment of Greek history – and the birth of modern Turkey. I read this book knowing my grandfather played a part in rescuing refugees during the loss of what was one of the most cosmopolitan and tolerant cities bridging East and West.
5 stars without a doubt.
Trent Emery
I had never heard of Smyrna before and it was heart breaking to read of a multi cultural society being wiped out through the destruction of warring countries. Its always the everyday people who are caught in the cross fire and the failure of the countries to help people was hard to comprehend.
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"Paradise Lost" by Milton 1 10 Jun 09, 2008 10:17AM  
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  • Λωξάντρα
British writer and journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the Americas.

Knowledgeable, insati
More about Giles Milton...
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