©2004 Louis de Bernieres; (P)2004 Books on Tape
Yes. The story is compelling, the characters felt real.
I didn't want the book to end. After finishing it I thought about the book for several days, and felt a longing for the characters as if they were friends I met on a vacation that I might never see again.
Before reading this, I knew little about Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or the terrible ethnic cleansing that occurred around the time of WWI. The story weaves chapters of the story of Mustafa Kemal between chapters written in the first person voice of the various citizens of a small village in southwestern Anatolia. The village is a melting pot of many cultures and religions that mix together to make an interesting and caring community, where the people live in harmony (mostly). However, the world is changing around them, and eventually the racism and the associated horrible atrocities sweeping Turkey and the region make their way to Eskibahçe. The book is a wonderful blend of drama, romance, humor and tragedy.
Captain Correlli's Mandolin is also by the same author and is something of a sequel to this book set at the time of WWII with one overlapping character, Drosoula. Both books have compelling characters I grew to truly care about.
John Lee does an outstanding job performing all the characters. However, if I have to choose one, it would Abdulhamid Hodja, though Karatavuk's potty mouthed wartime chum, despite being a smaller character, is also very memorable.
A Sad But Beautiful Story Well Told
The author not only wrote an engaging story about the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, but an excellent antidote for bigotry. As you get to know the characters, it matters little whether they are Christian or Muslim -- they are just parts of the village we come to know and love. Honor and integrity are shown by both sides as are dishonor and perfidy. Battle scenes are revealed as horrible rather than glorious. His storytelling method reminds me of Faulkner's, 'As I Lay Dying'. The narrator was superb with distinct voices for each character. This was one of my favorite audiobooks.
This is a long book, and not always riveting, but still a tremendous read. The narration is excellent. The book itself surrounds the political travails of the Ottoman Empire as it dissolves and is replaced by the nation of Turkey, in the process going from being extremely multiethnic to being more nationalistic. It interweaves the stories of ordinary people in an ordinary village with a description of the historical events through the character of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). It gives a great feel for the culture, geography, and time period in which it is set, and the characters are sympathetic and well drawn. Writing about this era is bound to be controversial, and depending on your politics, you can find him anti-Greek, anti-Turkish, anti-Kurdish, anti-Armenian, or whatever you want. The author tries to be even-handed, though personally I thought he was a bit too pro-Turkish and against everyone else, but as biases go, it was pretty slight. Great book!
This is one of the top five books that I have ever read (or listened to); and, I read alot. John Lee does an absolutely masterful job with the narration of a very challenging and complicated book. This book has dramatic implications and lessons for all of us in these polarizing times. At times sad, graphic, mysterious, horrifying, imaginative and hilariously funny, this is a must read.
Good story, great characters, and a masterful rendering by the reader, who adds so much to this wonderful title. A no brainer this one. The best audio book I found to date (out of 10).
This book,which I have recommended to everyone I talk books with, is a marvel of intertwined narratives.
It also is prophetic, with the rise of right wing Turkish nationalism and radical Islam in Turkey. Turkey still denies the massacre of millions of Armenians, people are getting assassinated for demanding it be acknowledged.
It brought home the hopelessness of the tangle of interests in that part of the world. It is fine and important literature. If I was teaching I would put it on my syllabus.
John Lee, as always, is superb.
Though the story took place in a fictional ottman/turkish village, the stories of love and tenderness even in the worst of times, war and its devastation, innocence and innocence lost are universal. BWW made me laugh, cry and hope the story would go on forever. The odd juxtaposition of the rise of Mustafa Kamal became more meaningful as the characters developed, and as the villagers of Eskabache were so sorrowfully affected by the coming and progress of WWI. Someday, I may listen again, or read the book. You will not be disappointed.
The reviews here were so good I figured this book was really something. A couple of hours into it I still could not see what all the fuss was about. I can't stand the narration, the foreshadowing of this girl's death is depressing, and this story never gets anywhere. Granted, I didn't get more than a couple of hours into it but it was just agonizing so I finally gave up. I love a great read but this wasn't it for me.
The immersion into village life on the southern Turkish coast, and the way that some characters were pulled from that into war and exile, realistically and not romantically.
I learned a lot about Mustafa Kamal turned Ataturk, and his rise to power was integrated well into the narrative, as gradually one character's progress intersected briefly with the famed leader. While at first these passages appear out of place, they gradually overlap with the characters, who are taken up without knowing it into the formation of Turkey as we know it a century later, a nation which chose to remake itself, at the cost of its Ottoman past.
Best of many moments were his dramatization of the Greek merchant's monologue as he sunk off Smyrna, and an ironic delight was Father Christoferos' fevered denunciation of all things tainted Catholic. John Lee and Louis de Bernieres share the joy and sorrow of a well-told epic, and they remind me of the sheer pleasure in storytelling at a long pace.
It made me chuckle, as in the many wry comments the narrators make about what one calls the "fetid bed" where nationalism and religion couple to produce monsters, so to speak. I was sad when many characters succumbed to the impact of war and ethnic cleansing. The tone of this book veers between the literary fiction's interest in ideas and ideologies, and the bestseller's skill at entertaining as well as educating readers about the Greek-Turkish clash.
This novel remains relevant as a cautionary tale, as we witness new tales of suffering, violence, and refugees across Anatolia and the surrounding Levantine and Balkans. Louis de Bernieres' prequel of sorts to the WWII-themed Corelli's Mandolin now makes me wish that had a John Lee audiobook too. A shame that title is not on Audible.
If you want to grow attached to quirky characters set in what we now know as Turkey and then listen to hours of their lives being ravaged by war, then this is for you. Provides interesting historical, cultural, and political background. Awesome performance. Ratio of peace to war was effectively oppressive.
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