Thanks to Net Galley and to I.B. Tauris for offering me a free ARC copy of the book that I freely choose to review.
This is the first book by Kaya Genç I’ve read, and I hope it won’t be the last. He does a great job of collecting testimonies of many youths, from different social classes, religious backgrounds and political beliefs, and presenting a balanced account of the different points of views and how the interviewees developed their stance and thoughts. It is clear that the author is a great communicator, in sync with his subjects, and understands them well. He is also skilled at capturing the nuances and peculiarities of the youths he interviews, whose voices come across clear and distinctive.
The author does not take sides (if there’s such a thing as sides), but he provides his reflections on Turkey and Istanbul itself, in a language that is nostalgic and poetic at times. He does draw historical parallels (also mentioned by several of the participants) with previous movements in Turkey and in the introduction mentions recent events (that are not discussed in the body of the book, as it looks mostly at the period between 2013 and 2015). It is difficult to read the book and not to think about the historical moment we live in, and some of the comments made throughout the book (about the role of public protests in democracies, about banning headscarves and outward religious symbols, about imprisoning journalists and the influence of social media) are as relevant to the situation in other countries as they are to Turkey’s.
A couple of examples of some of the sentences that made me think:
Now, as cries for an east-west war echo throughout the world, I am afraid of the world turning into a place like Turkey, governed almost permanently by martial law.
Once he concludes his story, Fettahoğlu seems calmer. ‘What I just told you about is not the result of politicization’, he says. ‘It is the result of a sort of void. People are radicalized and they act like hooligans. Politicization should be an intellectual process… To hate the other side’, Fettahoğlu says, ‘is not, cannot be, politicization. No.’ A final pause. ‘It is only hatred of ignorance.’
I enjoyed, in particular, the different voices and individual accounts, like glimpses into the young men and women’s lives, the clear links between the personal and the political (the book is about political ideas but mostly about people, who sometimes reach similar conclusions or feel similarly about certain issues even if they come at them from different political positions and outlooks are very different), the passion and the determination and the touching moments shared too (a mother who didn’t like her daughter’s political ideas sharing a picture of her signed book on Facebook, a young man surprised on seeing his father cry when he hears about the death of a journalist…)
I am not an expert in Turkish politics or history and enjoyed enormously the book, which is skilfully and beautifully written, and I’d recommend this book to anybody who has even a passing interest in the subject. I also look forward to reading more works by the author (and I’ve heard he’ll publish a novel soon. I’ll be on the lookout).
I have a few pet peeves when it comes to history, but my biggest by far is the question of why the world did not stop Adolf Hitler before he plunged Europe into war. I find it a frustrating question on a number of levels. At its most basic, it's an abuse of hindsight, expecting people in the 1930s to anticipate horrors that were simply unimaginable at the time (if you think I'm wrong about this, just look at the people today who believe that it can't possibly happen again). But at the same time it also reflects a degree of historical ignorance: the reason why so many Europeans avoided war until it was unavoidably thrust upon them was because most of them had already lived through a devastating conflict that had claimed tens of millions of lives. Is it any wonder that they were so loath to repeat the experience?
When I encounter people who don't appreciate just how traumatizing the First World War was for a generation of Europeans, I encourage them to read this book. It's the memoir of an upper-middle-class woman, whose comfortably sheltered existence was transformed by the war. Over the course of it, she lost the three men who mattered most to her: her fiancé Roland Leighton, her close friend Victor Richardson, and her brother Edward, all of whom were killed in combat. Her words express the impact of such loss better than any other work about the war that I have ever read. In this respect her account is superior to the memoirs of the men who served on the front lines, because for most people who lived through it the war was not experienced in the mire of the trenches but at home, with the anxious tension of waiting punctuated by the sudden revelation of loss that had occurred days or even weeks before.
Yet Brittain's own experience was not confined to the home front. In the summer of 1915 she left university to serve as a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, which ultimately led to her service in a field hospital in France. There she saw firsthand the effects of war on young men like her fiancé and brother, not just once but for hours on end every day for months. Her account manages to convey both the horror of this experience and the mind-numbing constancy of it, showing how it changed her forever by making her a pacifist, as she committed herself to fighting to save others from the loss that she had experienced so profoundly at such a young age.
Reading Brittain's book makes it clear what are the costs of war, costs that in the case of the First World War had been paid by nearly everyone. Her eloquent prose personalizes it and conveys the emotional impact in a way that the statistical tallies never could, showing how those numbers represent very real lives the promise of which was cut tragically short. For so many of the survivors the best way of honoring that sacrifice was ensuring that it did not happen again. The tragedy in this respect was these efforts failed, not that they were made or that people could not understand how others could live through the same conflict and draw other, more terrible conclusions from it.
I used to think Williams was the best. Vivian Leigh in Streetcar is an amazing performance. Plus, it's always fun to see how old the actresses are playing women who are fading. I still think of his work fondly, although now it just seems melodramatic and overwrought. Or "bigger than life and twice as unnatural".
Great book for teens who are high school and above it is set in the time of WW2 and is fun because Author Mark A. Copper mixes the reality of historic events with the incredible fiction and a bit of creative licensing with respect to the story line. There is enough truth however to be a mind expanding pleasant read for most teens male or female.
The characters are very well developed know their job within the story and all work in harmony to get that story told which with this detailed of a story line is difficult at best. Cooper pulls it off well and with irreverent sometimes wickedly funny runs on his prose.
I really think he has a great talent for dialoge that brings out the pathos of the characters while allowing us a glimpse at some of the nuances that make them more interesting then passive, perfect people.
The interesting part is that it is marked as Volume 1. I hope to read more of the series, the author left us hanging when a character mentions Fritz gets captured by the Nazi's.