Joan Adamak's Reviews > Between Love and Honor

Between Love and Honor by Alexandra Lapierre
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Aug 02, 2012

it was amazing

By Alexanda Lapierre, translated by June Lizop

A Dramatic Historical Account of Love and Hate

This true tale is set during the reign of Czar Nicholas I and Czarina Alexandra when Russia spent many years attempting to subjugate Shamil, third iman of Dagestan, known as the Lion of Dagesgtan, in Chechnya in the Caucasus. It was a custom of that area that in order to maintain a truce the losing side would hand over close relatives to the winning party as a guarantee to maintain the peace. In the 1830s Shamil, as iman and defender of Allah and the Muslims, had been fighting a continuous battle with the Russians who wanted to have a clear passage through the mountains to other areas of Russia. Upon their winning the area, they would extinguish the Muslim faith and destroy the freedom of these mountain people. The Dagestan warriors were extremely able fighters, most versatile horsemen and could live on little in these barren mountains. But being so outnumbered since these Muslims fought to the death, at the behest of the Russian commander-in-chief Grabbe, Shamil turned over his eldest son, seven years old, Jamal Eddin, to Grabbe to give him time to recoup his losses. But Grabbe was not to be trusted and did not keep Jamal with him, but instead sent him to St Petersburg to the Czar.

It was the Czar’s intention to keep the boy long enough to turn him into a Russian, but allow him to continue to be a Muslim and keep some of his keepsakes that he brought with him so that one day Jamal would return home as a bridge between the Russian and the Chechnyan cultures. He even encouraged Jamal to write letters home to his father, which Jamal faithfully did, but the Czar never forwarded them on. And Shamil made no effort to contact Jamal, although he never gave up attempting to find him, which Jamal didn’t know.

At the time of his abduction, Jamal could not speak nor understand Russian. He had never lived in houses or institutions. When Shamil realized that Grabbe had fooled him, he and his men fought Grabbe’s military, attempting to snatch Jamal back, and in the fight, Jamal accidently received a wound in his arm and almost died. When he was well enough, he was presented to the Czar who treated him like a son and said that he would be housed with other Chechnyan boys and raised in the military. Jamal impressed all who met him because he was reserved, stoic and had a nobility about him like his father, Shamil, who was six feet two inches tall, carried himself like a king, was a true leader of men and fearless. Shamil believed himself to be an instrument of Allah and, therefore, a fanatic. He killed anyone who disobeyed his commands for he believed himself to be the voice of Allah.

Over the next sixteen years, Jamal came to love the Czar as a father and since he never had any word about his family, he believed that Shamil had abandoned him and sacrificed him for his own gain. Because of his great horsemanship, stamina, athletic ability and intelligence, with the Czar’s backing, he went through the same military academies that the sons of the aristocracy attended. He was extremely good looking, lithe, masculine and impressed most everyone, especially the women and girls. When he became an older teenager, he finally found Vareka, a princess of Georgia with who he fell in love, but she was married off to a Georgia prince. When he found another, aristocrat, Lisa, and they believed themselves to be soulmates, fate stepped in.

The facts set forth here is the outline of a new world that Jamal is thrust into and the author has done an excellent job of dramatizing and setting forth Jamal’s life as it changed: the challenges he faced; his mature wisdom; the unfolding of this man from a wild mountain man to a sophisticated member of the Czar’s family; the emotional pain that he suffered and the stumbling blocks he met. I lived every moment of this story. I laughed and I cried. I cannot adequately say more without spoiling the forthcoming dramas for the reader. I truly recommend this book for all who like their history served up to them as life unfolding. I would give it ten stars, if I could.


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