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5.0 out of 5 starsA TEN; well worth reading and discussing
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2016
I don't often give five stars for a book but this one would get ten from me. As an avid genealogist I was immersed in this story from the very beginning. We too often forget or, sadly, don't even think about events that shaped our lives even though we did not live them. Interwoven in this story is a main character who has no idea about his own country's genocidal history but has experienced a subsequent form of political intolerance that landed him in prison. Finding his way to the truth took a convoluted turn when his grandfather, Kemal, dies. Kemal only appears in a few chapters of the story but his presence is always near because he did not forget the history he lived and he sought to remedy history, at least within his own family. By doing so he opened a new aspect of the world to Ohan, and although unspoken, sent a message of love to Lucine. I was surprised to learn that this is the first book by the author and is based on a story she heard as a child from a family member. It is simply written with just the bare facts needed to carry the story. After reading several reviews I was not sure what I would find. Some called it a romance. Yes there is romance but it is also a gentle yet gritty tale of survival on both sides of the fence and how the act of surviving has an immense impact on peoples lives. I could not put it down and woke up each morning thinking about the nuances of the story and empathizing with all of the characters, especially since genocide and ignorance about ones own past, be it individually, nationally or culturally, is still an issue in the world. We don't have to experience genocide, prejudice and hate to know it but we can empathize and listen to the voices thereby learning and hopefully changing our future for the better. A wonderful book.
3.0 out of 5 starsIt's always important to preserve history through the words of those who came before
Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2016
I'm giving this book 3 stars primarily because it gave me insight into a historical period about which I had known very little. I was sadly fascinated with the parallels between this genocide and the Holocaust, from the threatening winds leading up to the nightmare to the nightmare itself. I also thought that it was a fairly compelling read. I didn't find it boring, certainly not for the first two-thirds or so of the novel.
But after that I started to feel manipulated by the author into a grief that, yes, is more than justified but oddly attenuated by the the almost romance genre that she sneaked in to the latter part of the book. Stereotypes that I was willing to overlook became tedious, and the plot became muddy and confusing.
4.0 out of 5 starsPersonal Story of a Genocide that is Rarely Taught but Important to Remember
Reviewed in the United States on November 2, 2019
What if your personal history was so brutal and painful that you choose never to speak of it? Do you have an obligation to humanity or to those who did not survive to tell that story? The personal story in this novel is wrapped around the dark history of genocide in Turkey. Sounds timely, doesn’t it? The genocide in this book is the systematic expulsion, murder, and persecution of the Armenian Christians in Turkey. The story flashes back to young Armenian Seda and Turkish Kemal. There are religious, class and education differences that before the persecution would have had Seda in the more privileged position. But her life and her future were ripped away. The present day story is driven by Orhan’s mission to find Seda after his grandfather’s will bequeathed the family home to her and to find out why his grandfather would have made that bequest. The book is multi-dimensional with forays into the tensions between those who are determined to record the history and force acknowledgment of the atrocities and those who have spent their lives trying to forget. Ancient hatreds seem like something of the past until you read the headlines. There are memorable characters, unforgettable images, and an important story that is told reasonably well.
3.0 out of 5 starsSurviving one's history by creating a new one is a difficult task
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2018
There is a lot to like in this book, especially its effort to tell the story of Armenian genocide and to paint a picture of a world long gone -- Armenian Anatolia. It should be remembered, of course, that Armenians were persecuted and murdered throughout their historical range, and the world is poorer for their absence. The powerful message of this fiction is that the memory of history is fundamental to its interpretation, and such memory can be -- and I suppose always is -- distorted by the lens of time and historical bias. To my way of thinking, though, in the case of the Armenian story during the two decades on either side of the turn of the 20th century, truth is better than fiction. And that's my complaint about this novel. The difficulty with Orhan's Inheritance is a wooden, polemical style when Ms. Ohanesian tries to tell the political story of Turkey in WWI and the abysmal treatment of Armenians at the time. This extends to the modern Turkish state's refusal to acknowledge the genocide, treated almost apologetically by Orhan, the principal character in the book. Likewise, the soap opera plot is too much. Stipulating the need to humanize such tragedies, one feels that the coming-of-age-while-starving-and-being-raped narrative demeans rather than individuates the true theme of the book: the dehumanization and murder of a people. For me, the story of Armenia is better told by Karnig Panian in his GOODBYE, ANTOURA or Peter Balakian's powerful history THE BURNING TIGRIS. Ms. Ohanesian's own comments on the origin of the novel are in some ways more powerful than the product itself, which is too bad.
Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2019
Although this is historical fiction, it shares a history deeply hidden in the past. About 10 years ago, we were going with a small group tour to Turkey. Before we left we were sent a list of books about the complicated history of the place we were to visit. I chose to read Birds Without Wings by Bernieres and found it riveting. I am adult with a college degree and had never been exposed to the concept of the Armenian genocide let alone Turkey’s role during WWII. Important history for everyone to understand particularly now.
Moving and historically interesting. i bought it because i was going to Turkey and I wanted a novel that was set there. The book concerns the persecution and murder of the Armenians in the early years of the last century. I was on a package tour and there were four Armenians in our party, and they knew of the author and spoke highly of her.
4.0 out of 5 starsbut the real protagonists are Kemal and Seda (Lucine) whose love is at the heart of the story and everything ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 8, 2016
I learned so much from this novel about what happened to the Armenians under Turkish oppression and began to understand the pain they still feel even three generations later. At the same time as being a historically-rooted account, it is an intensely personal story focussing on identity, guilt, awakening and discovery. Orhan's character is sensitively depicted, but the real protagonists are Kemal and Seda (Lucine) whose love is at the heart of the story and everything it yields. Be prepared to be moved and shocked if you choose to read this, but be patient and you will also be fascinated.
There are few novels based on the Armenian atrocities - fewer written from a Turkish perspective, and even fewer that are manageable in length!. This has a credible plot, sympathetic characters but an improbable outcome. Well worth reading for anyone with an interest in contemporary Turkey and an interest in Armenian history.