A modern day woman learns of the love story and horror kept quiet in the history of her grandparents. We discover along with her of how her grandmothe...moreA modern day woman learns of the love story and horror kept quiet in the history of her grandparents. We discover along with her of how her grandmother Elizabeth Endicott traveled to Aleppo, Syria with her own father to offer relief to Armenian refugees. What they find when they arrive is a genocide in progress as Turks and Syrians attempt to erase the Armenian race from the earth. While in Aleppo, Elizabeth meets Armenian engineer Armen and falls in love. The novel follows their stories as their modern day granddaughter unravels their past decades later.
I am ashamed to admit that I was unaware of the Armenian genocide, which resulted in the deaths of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians between the years of 1915 and 1923. It's heartbreaking to think of what happened to these people, the suffering of those who died, and the haunting memories carried by those who survived.
I thought the format of this book was an interesting concept. Instead of simply telling the story of Elizabeth and Armen, to have it told through their granddaughter as she discovers what happened to them in their youth. Elizabeth and Armen were very believable. The granddaughter was sort of forgettable-- a bit of a quiet voice narrating and guiding the story, but Elizabeth and Armen were meant to be the stars of the story, and I found them to be real and solid and moving. They brought the horrors of the Armenian genocide to life.
Caught up in Elizabeth and Armen's story are the stories of many other characters, including an Armenian refugee by the name of Nevart and her young charge Hatoun. Two survivors of the genocide (at least they survived during the period that Elizabeth knew them), their own story is beautiful and stirring and heart wrenching. And then there is the underlying story of the images of the refugees, captured on film plates and being smuggled to safety to assure that they survive the slaughter, to reveal to the world the truth of what is going in Aleppo. And let us not forget the tragic story of Armen's wife Karine and infant daughter.
My final word: This story was a mixture of sweetness, tragedy and horror. Elizabeth and Armen were characters that I could really care about. This novel wraps a history lesson up in an intriguing story. A robust novel full of flavors, and I will undoubtedly be tasting of author Chris Bohjalian's other works. Definitely recommended!(less)