2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars
Entertaining but dangerous, 29 April 2008
This novel and the first one in the trilogy are an enjoyable read and will appeal to most general readers but Haig Tahta is treading on dangerous ground with his treatment of the `history' in the novels
A historical novelist does have an obligation to tell the truth substantially and not just to use a pastiche of history as a canvas for their own characters. But Tahta's characters are generally liberal and educated and the history has had to be suited to them instead of visa versa. So Tahta presents the appalling actions of the Turks during their genocide of the Armenians as an almost accidental disaster. The events mount up as Tahta's leading Armenian and Turkish characters dance round each in their own little world. History swirls around them like a building storm. Whether by accident or design Tahta has played into the classic Turkish excuse for the killings. It was a time of turmoil, peoples were fighting peoples, many died. No plans, no orchestration, no genocide. Just some bad weather which could have struck anywhere. Any novel set in this period simply cannot avoid a straightforward condemnation of the Turks. I searched in vain for this in Tahta's books.
Astonishingly Tahta compounds this genteel approach with a nostalgic support of the Ottoman Empire that borders on a travesty of reality. Obviously he does accept that the genocide of the Armenians was a catastrophe, but to imagine that the Ottoman Empire had any future during or after the First World War is surely madness. To further imagine that residents of the Ottoman Empire - especially the minority residents who had already suffered at the hands of the Ottomans - could view it as a benign protector is simply ridiculous.
I fear that Tahta has dived into a debate that will see him lambasted on both sides. Such is the danger of trying to pick an unrealistic middle line - just because there are two opposing points of view doesn't give them both equal weight.