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on 8 April 2017
This is the first book I read on the subject so my assessment is narrowly based on this book alone rather than a wider context. The score is for the technical merits of this book; and "I love it" is not in the sense of pleasure or enjoyment in reading this book because the content should make us uncomfortable and squeamish over the atrocities committed against humanity,

Just as I finished reading the book, President Trump of the US has ordered missile attack on Syria as a response to Assad's chemical attack on a ISIS held town. The civil war is into its seventh year, and many have been displaced and Europe faces a refugee crisis from Syria. An overarching impression that this book gives is one of volatility and instability of that region of Asia Minor. The necessary consequence of the destruction of Smyrna was a refugee crisis. It brings home that what we are confronted today is nothing new.

The author's mastery in piecing individual eyewitness accounts into a coherent recounting of the event as it unfolded is very impressive. He skilfully zooms in and out so that we have the micro details as we follow the eyewitnesses without losing sight of the big picture in geopolitics. But this book is largely about the former with the latter as the backdrop. It is a book about the people. I don't know how the author does it but reading this book was as if we saw the events unfolding with our own eyes like a first-hand account - yes, it's good. It is not an historical analysis, which would have read more detached.. Rather this book is a historical record of what actually happened, which need to be straightened out first. This is personal and gives a voice to the victims, the survivors and the lost. Sadly there were still many remain as a statistic, faceless and unknown.

The account of the destruction of Smyrna brings us face to face with the human nature of excess. When we take revenge, we won't go for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth if it were left to our own devices. The Old Testament law is to restrain evil. When people do not heed to the law, each round of revenge will only escalate the level of violence, cruelty and atrocities, until we have purged the last of the enemy from our land. This was what the Turks did to the Greeks, who were cruel to the Turks when they enjoyed the advantage first. Before the Holocaust in the Second World War, we have the destruction of Smyrna where Greeks and Armenians were tortured, violated, looted and massacred with brutality in September 1922. It is very sobering to stare into such an ugly reflection of human nature and what is more sobering is that this capability of monstrous acts is in the nature of each one of us. When I was reading the book, I did not feel morally superior, but was made acutely aware of the shared responsibility. There were human errors in judgement along the way, precipitating and magnifying the crisis and there was tardiness in coming to aid. In contrast, there was also heroic acts like Jennings' who managed to mobilise the Allied's resources to evacuate the refugees albeit limited to women and children. It is soul-searching for us especially pertinent in asking, "what is our attitude towards the refugee crisis today on our doorstep?" I think the reflections that the book provokes have a lot of relevance for today.

Another warning from this historical event is that racial tension takes a long time to ease and heal but takes only a moment to incite out of proportion. It can easily get out of hand. Restraint and disciplines is not easy to exert once the flare has gone out of hand. We must be careful with our speech and should never turn one group of people against another. It is not a fire that we should play for personal political gain, and we should never have too much confidence in ourselves to put out the fire at our will. In this book, we can see the extent of human wickedness such force can unleash. "Their inward part is destruction. Their throat is an open tomb. They flatter with their tongue." (Psalm 5:9)

What surprises me a little however is the lack of mention of personal faith journey in a crisis of a magnitude like this one. Did the eyewitnesses have any faith at all, especially when the persecuted were mostly Christians? What kind of questions did they ask God and what were their spiritual struggles in coming to terms with, in sustaining faith and hope through it and in healing after it? Were there any spiritual reflections having been purged and refined by the fire (literally)? It would be incredulous if no one in their diaries jot down these inner thoughts. I wonder if the author has deliberately screened them out and restricted himself to accounting "facts". If you are Christian, an understanding without the spiritual dimension will not be complete. Furthermore, the eyewitness accounts are from the survivors (Europeans, Americans, officials, marines, Greeks and Armenians); there is no first-hand account from the viewpoints of the Turks. I wonder why.

Here is a human perspective in making sense of what she saw:
"It seems to her [Lovejoy - an American doctor who played a leading role in the humanitarian rescue] how men, women and children who had experienced unspeakable atrocities nevertheless clung to life with hope and conviction for the future: 'Fortunately, there seems to be a point at which human beings become incapable of further suffering. A point where reason and sensation fail, and faith, cooperating with the instincts of self-preservation and race preservation, takes control, releasing sub-human and super-human reservoirs of strength and endurance which are not called upon under civilised conditions of life.'" (p. 362)
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on 14 January 2018
The Eastern Med and the Balkans have a lot of the most crucial modern history. The outbreak of the Great War, the Balfour Declaration. This book describes, post Ottoman, the Geek Imperialist ambition to annex Turkey and the terrible disaster that followed. These are the events that shaped the chaos that is the Middle East and modern Islam verses modern Israel and whose side you are on.
I would very much recommend reading Lawrence In Arabia by Scott Anderson which gives an overall picture of the complete upheaval of the area leading up to the Turko Greek war. These books do not require an academic aptitude, They are both a cracking good read.
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VINE VOICEon 9 September 2013
In the battle for supremacy in Asia Minor between Greece and Turkey, the city of Smyrna (now Izmirs suffered horrendous collateral damage. Until the outbreak of the first World War, Smyrna was a predominantly happy multinational community. Largely thanks to benevolent Levantine employers, the inhabitants prospered; thanks to that prosperity, the Levantine families led an existence reminiscent of the palmy days of the Raj. On the outbreak of war, Britain and her allies backed Greece while Turkey chose the German side. What ensued was a campaign of ethnic cleansing from which no nation emerged with credit,despite the heroic endeavours of several unsung individuals.

This seems to have been a small corner of British history that had not been chronicled until Giles Morton's detailed account in Paradise Lost. Drawing on official papers, newspaper reports, contemporary letters and diaries, and personal interviews, Milton paints a vivid picture of the descent from serene coexistence into the inferno. There are times when the book in somewhat artless style piles atrocity upon atrocity, but it is this very repetition which hammers home the true extent of the tragedy.

Kemal Ataturk's bloodthirsty role as the founder of modern Turkey is a morality talein itself. Lloyd George's seat-of-the-pants direction of Britain's involvement was far from this nation's finest hour.

Those who deserve credit, do so for personal courage. They include Rahmit Bey, the Ottoman Governor of Smyrna; George Horton, the American consul whose diaries illuminate the narrative; and above all two other 'ordinary' Americans - Asa Jennings, a YMCA employee, and Esther Lovejoy - who masterminded an astonishing evacuation that saved the lives of literally thousands of innocent refugees.

Paradise Lost is a story that needed to be told. We must be grateful that is has been told so well.
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on 30 May 2014
All sorts of eye-openers for me. I knew that the massacre happened and that prior to it Venezelos had been making unrealsitic demands at Versailles and Smyrna was one that was granted which probably shouldn't have been. But I didn't know what a cool place Smyrna had been before the war, that it was Turkey's most important export outlet, that the Venezelos/Smyrna debacle essentially cost Lloyd George his job, that the international community were paralysed by the unfolding horror and that it was down to individuals to organise the evacuation.

My only slight quibble is that the maps aren't great on Kindle (I haven't seen the print edition).
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on 15 December 2013
Absolutely could not put this book down.
It's written in such a wonderful easy descriptive style that I was caught up in the lives of the Smyrna inhabitants right from the very first page.
But what a DREADFUL period of history. As if the Balkan war & the 1st World War weren't bad enough, to then keen fighting for a further decade must have been gruelling beyond belief. And, with such terrible atrocities being carried out, it leaves you wondering what kind of beings are humans - that we can do such disgusting savage things to another person? Such a waste of millions of innocent lives. I truly am thankful that I was born within the last 60 years.
Even if you have just the SLIGHTEST interest in history (or Greece or Turkey, or what us Brits can help to destroy!), then you MUST read this book. Excellent read.
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on 2 October 2012
Giles Milton's Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 is an unusual book, exploring a terrible human catastrophe that has largely been overlooked by many historians. Having recently read Victoria Hislop's The Thread, which poignantly and forcefully describes the unimaginable ordeals of civilians living through a turbulent and violent time in Greek and Turkish history, I wanted to delve deeper into and learn more about the conflict and its underlying causes. Drawing on eyewitnesses' accounts and survivors' letters, Milton pieces together an insightful, informative and moving narrative of the catastrophe that was Smyrna in 1922.

Paradise Lost is a compelling, captivating and harrowing account of the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922, which led to the forced expulsions of millions of Greeks and Turks.
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on 19 June 2015
Read David Fromkin, A peace to end all peace, you will see the chaos Britain caused in Europe and the middle east after the first world war
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on 30 July 2013
I chose this book having read the fictional account of the same events covered by Louis de Bernieres in 'Birds without Wings'.
Could our British and Allied politician and military commanders have slept in their beds having overseen such terrible events?

The story, drawn from multiple original reports from people who lived through the disaster, is told compellingly, albeit with one or two repetitions.

By the author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg who has a talent for bringing history alive by telling the tales of the people involved at the time. Gripping stuff.
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on 10 April 2013
I'd been recommended to read this book by a Greek friend who knew of my interest in the post WW 1 era. I knew of the tragedy of Smyrna but didn't realise how such a monumental catastrophe had gone largely unknown in the UK, particularly given the role the UK played.

The author has succeeded in crafting a compelling page turner from well researched historical material, creating both an engaging story and a potent history lesson
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on 17 March 2018
A day by day account of one of the great tragedies of the age, brilliantly researched and well-written
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