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Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  416 Ratings  ·  58 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 2008)
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Jun 22, 2011 Themistocles rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
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
Gerald Sinstadt
Sep 05, 2013 Gerald Sinstadt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Sep 08, 2008 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 16, 2009 Brigitte rated it it was ok
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
Jan 18, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing
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
Ron Willoughby
Jun 17, 2012 Ron Willoughby rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-politics
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
Alex K.
May 03, 2015 Alex K. rated it it was amazing
What an incredible read. The politics, the social dynamics, the personalities and the precipitating events of the destruction of Smyrna are already staggering to contemplate, but in Milton's hands the events become vivid and almost tangible to the reader. Being of Greek descent, learning this history was of particular significance for me, but anyone who wants a better understanding of the history of 20th century international relations as influenced by the outcomes of World War I, the developmen ...more
A. Sacit
Mar 21, 2015 A. Sacit rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This book chronicles the final years of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, great Levantine city of Smyrna (now Izmir) during the final few years of the Ottoman Empire, when it all ended in an enormous tragedy with the collapse of the Empire after WW1 and the emergence of the Turkish Republic from its ashes.

Milton writes in fascinating detail of the fairy-tale-like lives of the Smyrna Levantines, mainly the people of British, French, and Dutch origin, the fabulous wealth that they accumulated as a
Apr 09, 2016 Jane rated it really liked it
3.5/5. Devastating account of one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century--the complete destruction of Smyrna in the last three weeks of September, 1922, [Izmir in today's Turkey]. It was burnt to the ground. Most of its 19th and 20th century history was reported by and has come down to us from the Levantines, the wealthy upper class of Europeans. Smyrna was a completely religiously tolerant city in the Ottoman Empire, with a Christian majority, although the mayor was a Muslim, Rahmi Bey. Dur ...more
Stan Murai
Apr 09, 2012 Stan Murai rated it really liked it
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
May 27, 2015 Marc rated it it was ok
Shelves: turkey
I think I can handle quite something when it comes to reading gruesome scenes, but the deluge of mutilation, torture, rape, and massacres that Milton in this book pours on you, was almost unbearable. The tragic fate of hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Armenians after the occupation of the thriving port city of Smyrna (now Izmir) by the Turkish nationalist Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) in 1922, defies all imagination. Milton describes it in the second part of this book in full, with lots of ey ...more
Georgia Vergos thompson
Jul 19, 2016 Georgia Vergos thompson rated it really liked it
"one of the keenest impressions which I brought away with me from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belonged to the human race."
This is a quote from the book by George Horton, the American consul in Smyrna, and it pretty much sums up how I felt as I read the book. The cruel history is very upsetting and many times I had to put the book down because I just couldn't handle anymore. The cold blooded murder of innocent civilians and the apathy from the self described "civilized" nations. These c
Jess Holdstock
Aug 22, 2013 Jess Holdstock rated it really liked it
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
Jan 24, 2013 Rinsfin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Darren Anderson
Jan 11, 2016 Darren Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
One of the saddest accounts I have ever read.
By the end, I couldn't decide which government most frustrated me - the barbaric Turks, the antagonizing Greeks or the apathetic Allies. In a way, the actions of the Brits and Americans were the most disappointing. They were there and for the most part heartlessly looked on as the disaster unfolded.
After reading about the Turkish treatment of Armenians in particular in the years preceding this story, it is hard to feel anything but disgust against t
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
John Hutt
Aug 19, 2013 John Hutt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bahadır Balibaşa
Oct 07, 2012 Bahadır Balibaşa rated it really liked it
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.
Victor Nobrega
Feb 16, 2017 Victor Nobrega rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

That was a emotional rollercoaster. It takes you deep into the old world and you can almost breath and taste and smell Smyrna at its peak. Amazing book strong recommend.
Dec 06, 2009 Nickstarfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 29, 2009 Karl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2010 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Sep 23, 2011 Filip rated it really liked it
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
Steve Cran
Jul 28, 2011 Steve Cran rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 14, 2015 Panaes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My knowledge on Smyrna was limited to the history classes in school and some TV programs related to the Anatolian hellenism. I've never been a fan of history books but Milton's account on Smyrna changed my attidute towards history. I have to admit that apart from learning more on historical events related to WWI and Greek Turkish war, reading this book I came across some very nostalgic family Levantine,Greek and Armenian stories which gave me an jnsight of how important and prosperous city Smyrn ...more
Sep 06, 2014 Keval rated it liked it
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.
Frank Roberts
Jun 15, 2011 Frank Roberts rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Mar 31, 2009 Lydia rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 24, 2008 Shirley rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 22, 2011 Jake rated it liked it
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.
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"Paradise Lost" by Milton 1 10 Jun 09, 2008 10:17AM  
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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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