The setting is World War II Paris — when the Germans begin their occupation of the city, the protagonist of this story is just turning sixteen. Maral Pegorian and her older brother, Missak, are part of an Armenian family displaced to France after the Armenian genocide. They are stateless refugees and have made the suburb of Belleville in Paris, their home. Maralâ€™s father is a cobbler and owns a small shoe shop hoping to one day pass on his skills to his son.
n a blog that she wrote for the Huffington Post, Lea Carpenter notes that eleven days was the period of truce negotiated between King Priam and Achilles in the Iliad after the death of Hector — an encounter movingly narrated by David Malouf in his novel Ransom. It is an appropriate reference for many reasons, not least the almost classical values that Carpenter both celebrates and espouses in her storytelling; this gripping debut novel is immediate in content, ample in moral perspective, rich and thoughtful in its human values.
It is Paris in the spring of 1942. Paris, the glorious “City of Lights” is even more wondrous in the springtime….but not for the French, not in 1942. It is the second year of the victorious Nazi occupation, and the French are struggling to get by. There are economic problems with the payment of the costs of a three-hundred-thousand strong occupying German army, which amounts to twenty million Reichmarks per day; lack of food for French citizens – the Germans seize about 20% of the French food production, which causes severe disruption to the household economy of the French people; the disorganization of transport, except for the railway system which relies on French domestic coal supplies; the Allied blockade, restricting all imports into the country; the extreme shortage of petrol and diesel fuel; (one walks or rides a bike); France has no indigenous oil production and all imports have stopped; labor shortages, particularly in the countryside, due to the large number of French prisoners of war held in Germany. And then there was the Jewish problem.
So here I was yesterday, pounding my treadmill, reading Sebastian Barry’s new novel, alternately sobbing and laughing aloud at the sheer magnificence of it, reveling in the exuberant brilliance of his writing. Admittedly, exertion at the gym calls forth such strong reactions, but the book had touched me quietly already with its first pages upon waking, and would retain its hold through the limpid ambiguity of its final paragraphs, read before going very late to bed. Yes, I finished it in a single day; I could not help myself.
September 18, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 20th-Century, Immigration-Diaspora, Time Period Fiction, War Story Â· Posted in: End-of-Life, Facing History, Literary, World Lit, y Award Winning Author
When I first read just the title of this book — THE MISSING OF THE SOMME — I thought perhaps it was an historical novel about World War I, or possibly a linear history of some of the men who had never come home from the fields of battle. Then, reading the Vintage description of Geoff Dyer’s slim volume, I banished those ideas in favor of curiosity about a work that “weaves a network of myth and memory, photos and film, poetry and sculptures, graveyards, and ceremonies that illuminate our understanding of, and relationship to, the Great War.” Did Dyer ably marry these diverse elements and create a memorable contribution to WWI literature?
Only those who fully venerate war can think of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a glorified event. Indeed, many fictional books that are set in post-Hiroshima reconstruction are filled with vivid, colorful and poignant descriptions.
So it comes as a surprise that Michael Knightâ€™s THE TYPIST is such a gentle book. It is devoid of precisely what one might expect in a book set in the wake of World War II: no brow-beating, no heart-wrenching, no intrusive authorial political statements.