ETA: No, I didn’t really like this book. I just gave it three stars because I am glad Bohjalian wrote a book about the genocide. The narration was off...moreETA: No, I didn’t really like this book. I just gave it three stars because I am glad Bohjalian wrote a book about the genocide. The narration was off, I didn’t like the two threads, particularly the modern one, and parts are written for the movies, i.e .way too theatrical, and yes even fluffy! I have changed the rating from three to two stars.
I will give this three stars. Part of the problem is that there are two threads, a historical one and a modern one. I generally do not like that. The author did this to lighten the tone because the subject matter is so very d-i-f-f-i-c-u-l-t!!!! Bohjalian states this in an interview at the end. All genocides, and the horrific events of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Turks in 1915, are really horrible. 1.5 million Armenians were killed. What is related is taken from history. These are the facts that must be acknowledged, and yet Turkey continues to deny what they did. I think it is great that such a well-known author tackles this topic in an easy to read book of fiction. It has romance and suspense; the ingredients that attract people toward a book of fiction. Bohjalian maybe has hopes for a film version? I could imagine this almost being written for that purpose. Whether you like books like that is up to you. It definitely does teach much of what should be known about this genocide.
If you have not before read about the Armenian genocide of 1915, this may be a good book to start with. There are many other books written on this topic. There are wonderful biographies. Here follows a link to my Armenian shelf for other detailed and excellent books: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/... . The most comprehensive is: Armenian Golgotha
What is my view of the narration by Cassandra Campbell and Alison Fraser? It is patchy; some sections good, some sections less so. It is very disturbing when gruesome events of the Armenian genocide are spoken of in a light and sometimes even flippant tone. This does not happen consistently. Chapter 9 takes us to the refugee camp in Der Azore. Here, Campbell’s voice carries just the right lilt. She well expressed people of different nationalities. Perhaps part of the difficulty in narrating this book is that given the seriousness of the topic, we the listeners demand a performance with no errors.
Concerning the thread set in modern times, there is a lighter often jovial tone. It is tricky to capture both this joviality and switch to a respectful tone when the events are about the genocide. The author’s words in the modern thread are often sarcastic. To say such words in a flippant manner is not incorrect. Laura, writing of her grandparents says:
But history does matter. There are lines connecting the Armenians and the Jews and the Cambodians and the Serbs and the Rwandans. They are obviously morbid. Really, how much genocide can one sentence handle? You get the point. Besides, my grandparents’ story deserves to be told, regardless of their nationalities.(chapter12)
How much of the inappropriateness is the result of the author’s choice of words and how much is the fault of a narrator? This quote shows you that here it is the author’s words that are “disrespectful”. What can Alison Fraser do? She must say this in a flippant manner! One cannot criticize her for this. (Please see “IN CHAPTER 7” and “THROUGH CHAPTER 6” for other examples.) I am not quite sure where to put the blame, but the book is far too often disturbing to listen to/ read. This has nothing to do with the brutality of the events. The events of the Armenian genocide must be told, but with both the right words and intonations.
IN CHAPTER 7:
I have begun chapter 7. The audio narrator is currently Alison Fraser. I know, this is crazy, but I have trouble concentrating on the author's text! I focus instead on which narrator is speaking! Even in the middle of a chapter the audio narrators (Cassandra Campbell and Alison Fraser) and the book narrators (Elizabeth Endicott, the paternal grandmother, and Laura Petrosian, the granddaughter writing a book about her family) change. This isn't a compliment. What I do want to point out now is a compliment. Laura Petrosian, the author, is very funny when she speaks of ethnic Armenian stereotypes: Armenians are "nice, industrious and capable of weaving attractive rugs"! Or maybe that is a compliment of Fraser……
THROUGH CHAPTER 6: I am listening to the audiobook. There are two narrators: Cassandra Campbell and Alison Fraser. For me their super American, kind of flippant tone is irritating.... particularly Campbell’s. Then when Fraser speaks she is cooler and yet I STILL feel a sarcasm and disdain that is sometimes inappropriate. Her tone is so different from Campbell’s. I cannot figure out if it is the words of the author or the tone of voices that irritates me. Or am I supposed to be irritated. I am kind of confused by my reactions. I do not understand what is bothering me.
OK, I found an exact example where I can point out what is wrong with the narration. Laura Petrosian is writing about her Armenian grandfather. In this case the narrator is Alison Fraser. The text reads:
Why did my Armenian grandfather have a lamb chop every morning for breakfast?
And the answer follows:
It is because he could. It is just that simple, because he could!
The tone that Fraser uses comes out meaning exactly what those words say. However the real meaning is more. The tone should imply the idea that her grandfather wasn’t able to eat that lamb chop before, and that is why it was important to eat it now, every single morning. Always, because he couldn’t before. How do you get this across? By pauses, by voice inflection, by the speed with which the text is related.
Then the narrator changes to Campbell. Elizabeth and her father are disputing over the appropriateness of bringing some of the Armenian refugees into the American compound. Elizabeth insists on bringing two in, and she wins over her father. After this confrontation, the lines read: “she skips down the corridor”. And what does that mean? Does she skip because she is happy? She won over her father!? Or does it mean that she is not aware of the seriousness of the whole situation? If you read this text you get no hint from any tonal variation, you can figure out yourself what those words mean. However when the text is read out-loud, you do get a message. I hear a flippant tone, which is extremely irritating.
If one reads a text of horrible import too smoothly or even too exaggeratedly the whole sense can be misunderstood! Tone is important. It is one of the things we cannot get across properly here on internet. Maybe I am nitpicking, but for me the narration is not working.
Maybe my view will change as I continue, but I am not pleased so far! (less)
One thing that is great about GR is that it forces me to figure out with my head what I am feeling in my gut about a given book. I like...moreNO SPOILERS!!!
One thing that is great about GR is that it forces me to figure out with my head what I am feeling in my gut about a given book. I like writing reviews so that I can bring the book back when I begin to forget. Also I use my review as a place to bubble over or explode if a book is excellent or horrible. I always judge a book only in terms of how it affects me, and that in no way assumes that others will have the same thoughts or emotions. Reading a book is an emotional experience for me. This book did NOT move me emotionaly - until the end, and then it did it superbly. It is an action packed, suspense filled adventure story, very much plot driven. It follows what happened to the Armenians in 1915 under the Young Turks and during WW1. I personaly prefer books that focus on how particular experiences shape individuals due to their emotional impact. A very large part of this book was about what "happened". The history is accurately and most often in an interesting manner woven into the plot. That is to say that what happens to the main characters is what happeened to many Armenians. All the historical events are there in the story. The plot driven characteristic of the book put me off. I felt like it was written as a film script! It had to be exciting. It had to encompass horror and excitement and sadness and resolution. Also the names - there were so many people I had a very hard time keeping the names straight. New people were added throughout the whole book! And the names are hard to pronounce nor easily recognizable. But I managed; this it is not an insurmountable problem! What I want to really emphasize is that I think most readers WILL like the action packed drama AND I was very pleased because the last 100 pages focused on how the prime protagonists dealt with their experiences emotionally. I enjoyed this focus on how life experiences had changed the people to the core. The characters realized themselves the need to resolve their emotional battles. The prose is predominantly just plain ordinray. Some of the sentences are really bad with phrases such as "your wish is my comand", and occasionaly the prose shines.
Through page 200: This is NOT an easy read. I wanted to read more about the deportation of Armenians from Turkey in 1915 and about the Young Turks. I wanted to know more about the genocide that Turkey today so vehemently denies. The history is carefully documented. It is a book that is read to "find out what happened". It is not pleasant. I usually say that I want a little humor in books....there isn't much here. Nevertheless, I am glad I am reading this book. It is plot driven rather than offering character analysis. Usually I do not go after plot driven books, but again I surprise myself and say I am glad to be reading this book. There is a detailed map, a glossary of Turkish and Armenian words and even a name list. Nevertheless it has been necessary for me to write down the character names and a few descriptive notes, to keep everybody straight. Now at 200 pages I rarely need my list, but making it has helped me understand who is who. There are more names than those in the character list at the front of the book. There are 545 pages in the book. I have read a plot synopsis. I already KNOW that other issues than the actual deportaion march to the Syrian desert will take over the book. I am glad b/c I cannot read JUST about these horrible events. Neither would I say the prose is beautiful - you are just plain given the facts of what happened through the gruesome sufferings of the charactes - a mother, father , grandmother and son. There are friends and a dog that you come to care for too. Although the writing doesn't sparkle, the clear fact telling DOES fit the plot line. Again I am satisfied. So I am not complaining about the prose either! I have pointed out several aspects of this book that I could be griping about, BUT I AM NOT GRIPING. Maybe I don't know why, but I AM very glad I am reading this book.(less)
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I am glad I read it. I learned both about the Armenian death march to the Syrian desert in 1915, about the...moreI have very mixed feelings about this book. I am glad I read it. I learned both about the Armenian death march to the Syrian desert in 1915, about the Treaty of Sévres, followed by the Great Fire of Smyrna (Izmir, as it is known today). This horrific event of September 1922, the Great Fire of Smyrna, is briefly depicted in Middlesex. I had always wanted to learn more. In The Road from Home the author describes his Armenian mother's experiences from her birth in 1907 through 1924. The reader follows with the author's mother through these terrible times. You learn about the Armenian culture and about the different cultural groups living in Anatolia at this time - the Arabs, the Armenians, the Turks, the Kurds..... Clothing, food and daily life routines, marriage ceremonies and festivals are depicted.
This is a young adult book. You felt it was a young adult book, and I mean that in a negative sense. You primarily notice the childish tone in the dialogue passages. At the same time, horrific historical events occurred. In addition family members spoke extremely cruelly to the author's mother. After such confrontations, there is no "discussion", no "working through" of these hurtful statements. I believe this is dangerous in a young adult book. I felt that one minute I was reading a documentary for adults and then wham it changed to a child's book with childish dialogue. Who is this book written for? An outstanding book will be appreciated by both young adults and adults. Unfortunately much is told rather than experienced or shown. Often one feels that the reader is being taught or instructed rather than learning by living through the characters' lives portrayed in an engaging tale. The prose had no sparkle, and as I pointed out before, the dialogue is terrible. Really, I do not think a child would appreciate it any more than I do.... Kids deserve better writing.
I will give it three stars, but if I were to judge it as a child's book I would only give it two. Informative, but not engaging reading. Kids must be given really good books. We don't want to destroy their love of reading.(less)
ETA: I think, in a nutshell, that this is the MOST comprehensive of all the books I have read about the Armenian genocide, but not the most fun to rea...moreETA: I think, in a nutshell, that this is the MOST comprehensive of all the books I have read about the Armenian genocide, but not the most fun to read. I am not religious. I objected to some part of the book for this reason. I felt that some parts simply did not make sense! I would think: what do you mean with that paragraph. However his description of Berlin when the war began, and how he escaped, and as a summary of all that happened to the Armenians, all of these things I liked a lot.
BUT I found it strange that terrible things happened to all the Armenians and NOTHING happened to his Mom! I guess she was just lucky. Just a bit strange that nothing was said about her........except that he loved her and missed her so much.
This book should be read by those who want a thorough description of the fate of the Armenians at the hands of the Young Turk triumvirate: Talat, Enver and Jemal. It is complete; it details all aspects of the Armenian genocide. It is a personal memoir of the author’s own experiences, his deportation from Constantinople across Turkey eastward toward Aleppo and Der Zor in the Syrian Desert and his escape. It is also about the numerous other Armenians he encountered and how the fate of the Armenian people was tied up with the events of WW1. He promised himself and others that if he survived he would record what had happened. He felt he had to live to document for future generations exactly what transpired. If you want to know the complete story of the Armenian tragedy during WW1, this is the book to choose.
This is a difficult book to read. The subject matter is horrible, just as bad as the most gruesome events concerning WW2.
The language is in some sections old-fashioned, even though the edition I read was translated and published in 2009 by Peter Balakian. Grigoris Balakian, the author, was a priest and later a bishop in the Armenian Apostolic Church. His religious beliefs are reflected in his writing style:
In the loneliness of my room, with my arms outstretched, I came to my knees, asking for help for myself and for all the unfortunate and oppressed, for moral strength and vigor, from the inexhaustible treasury of eternal power . The wind of fear subsided, and with my soul recharged, my turmoil and agitation abated. The fear of unfamiliar and unexpected dangers that I had felt an hour before evaporated, as I received new strength and courage from the inexhaustible source. (page341)
There are a few parts where the text simply doesn’t make sense. Grigoris is hiding disguised as a sick German patient in a hospital. He is not sick:
An Armenian from Bandirma by the name of Garabed was assigned to serve me; like me he was a fugitive, working in the hospital as a servant. Garabed took me for a German patient and attended me dutifully, every day he took my temperature and recorded it on the little board on which my name was written: ENGINEER MUELLER, 40 YEARS OLD, DIABETES
A doctor had once told me that if my temperature dropped suddenly from 40 to 37 Celsius I would die. After some weeks I began to put the thermometer under my tongue, and on a piece of paper I traced mountains and valleys, plotting points from 37 up to 40, then 41 degrees, and again gradually decreasing it. For a month I passed peaceful days this way without incident, and eventually, since I had food and books and gave praise to God, I grew accustomed to this imprisonment. (page 350)
This doesn’t make sense. Was the doctor’s statement caustic? Snide? How could his temperature vary if he wasn’t sick? Garabed took the temperature every day!
I wondered why when Grigoris eventually returned to Constantinople he told us nothing of his mother’s experiences. She was there waiting for him. How had she gotten through these times? Nothing was said!
The author has every right and reason to hate the Turks. I believe definitely in the events I am told concerning the massacres and atrocities committed, but occasionally it did flit through my head that perhaps some exaggeration or misrepresentation could be embedded in the events. I feel very bad even saying this……. but that is the truth. The author is not impartial. How could he be? He began writing the book immediately after the war when all was vivid in his mind. Yes, these facts must be told!
This maybe sounds like I did not like the book, but I DID. When he tells of his own personal experiences and how he escaped and how he helped others it is a truly riveting documentation of events! I would like to give this book five stars because of its thoroughness. He has followed up what has happened to all those deported with him in April 1915. There is research and careful notes, a bibliography, maps and even photos. You get a complete picture of the Armenian genocide and how it played out during the War. While the historical details were sometimes dry, the personal events pulled you in.
I give the book four stars because of the points mentioned above. Although I want to give it five stars I simply can’t. I am awfully glad the book was written, and I hope people read it. (less)
I finished Passag To Ararat several days ago, I wanted to think a bit before writing a review. Recently I have read several books about th...moreNO SPOILERS!
I finished Passag To Ararat several days ago, I wanted to think a bit before writing a review. Recently I have read several books about the Armenian Genocide that Turkey continues to deny. For this reason alone people should be informed. When Hitler invaded Poland, he pointed out that nobody even remembered the Armenian Genocide! He must be proven wrong. People do remember; we must never forget. Forgetting is the step before repeating what we have promised will never happen again. All of the books reveal the same story, although each emphasizes different aspects. In my view this was one of the best b/c it thoroughly described the entire history of the Armenian people, starting 500 years before Christ. The author searches to discover who his Armenian father really was, and in the process discovers who he is himself. A reader learns what it is to be Armenian, both in the past and even today.
Through page 100: The author is trying to understand his heritage. He begins by tryining to understand his father, who is at this point dead. His father saw himself clearly as being ENGLISH, NOT Armenian. It is the vehemence with which he denied his Armenian heritage that in fact shows the strength of his Armenian ties. One only needs to shout unless when one feels insecure. The book is very much about the author's own need to discover his Armenian heritage. His wife clearly is the sounding board for all his questions and denials. She understands her husband very well. She says (page 87-88):
"...part of you claims to be this rational observer, and yet another part of you still seems to be trying to justify Armenians in Western terms - you know, that history we were all taught. Battles, generals, Crusades, Richard and Saladin and Robin Hood."
He replies: "That's not it at all."
She replies: "All right. But why do you care so much that they seem European?"
In many, many different ways the author has a very hard time accepting his Armenian background, just as his own father had difficulty accepting this. The author immerses himself in Armenian books of history, even when he is there in Erevan (Yerevan), Soviet Armenia. He is deluged in books. he cannot leave the hotel..... He doesn't dare meet the people. The result being that the reader is deluged in Armenian history. WE are given history going back to 500 B.C. the first Armenian kings of Nairi, Armenia under the Persians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, theRomans, the Armenian role in the Crusades. Did you know that in 301 A.D. Armenia was in fact the first nation in the world to officialy adopt Christianity as a state religion?! I didn't. There is alot of detailed history here, and I have a very hard time following. The more you know the easier this will be, but my knowledge is lacking. The writing demands that you know your history. If you don't, you must have access to Wikipedia and an atlas. In addition, it isn't always easy to find the nations/cities b/c the names have changed, others no longer exist. I am not saying it is bad, not at all. I am just telling you what you will be getting. This is not mentioned in any of the reviews I encountered....... That is why I want to point it out. Yes, it is also about the author and his discovery of what it is to be Armenian, but I did not know that it would be primarily history, history and more history, starting in ancient times. This is more history than memoir. It fits what I am searching for, but I didn't expect this.(less)
A true story very well told. A very moving, clear, precise depiction of the Armenian genocide of 1915. This book read like a novel. It never drags. Hi...moreA true story very well told. A very moving, clear, precise depiction of the Armenian genocide of 1915. This book read like a novel. It never drags. History brought to life. The author plans to write other books about what happened to her surviving family members after their escape from Aleppo. I will definitely read these books as soon as they are published!(less)
The lines are beautiful. The humor is priceless. The questions are numerous. One example being: what is the value of truth? Is truth always to be sought,...moreThe lines are beautiful. The humor is priceless. The questions are numerous. One example being: what is the value of truth? Is truth always to be sought, AT ALL COSTS? because: "the past is anything but bygone."
and as Elif Shafak also so eloquently speaks:
"Once there was. Once there wasn't. God's creatures were as plentiful as grains and talking too much was a sin, for you could tell what you shouldn't remember and you could remember what you shouldn't tell."
The humor - I adored the depiction of French cuisine at a restaurant where each plate was composed as a known work of art. Could you dig into a Chagall, Magritte or a Mogdigliani portrait?
As Asya describes her family, "this must be a nut-house". But aren't we all nuts?(less)