Tag Archives: historical fiction

Choose to Rise: The Victory Within- M. N. Mekaelian


Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis. 

One day Vartan Hagopain, a well respected professor approaching retirement, collapses whilst teaching a class and is shouting of a woman his grandchildren have never heard of. This brings his brother Armen to share a story which he had been keeping a secret since he was a teenager.

It’s the story of their life during and just before the Armenian Genocide.

Review

I mainly agreed to read this book because I knew nothing about the Armenian Genocide, a part of history which I think has largely been forgotten due to it coinciding, but not being a part of, the first world war. I tend to find stories are a good way to learn about history because they make it more real than a handful of facts.

When it came to the actual events of the Armenian Genocide itself I think this book did do quite well. It was almost brutal in the amount of detail which was given, and those who are sensitive to gore may dislike it- but that’s how it should be. I liked how Mekaelian showed both the horrible side of the genocide but also how the Armenians and sometimes others living in the Ottoman empire showed compassion and generosity even when it caused them to be at risk.

Having said this I found the first 75% of the novel difficult. I felt not much was really happening, and some things were pretty unbelievable. I almost gave up a few times.

The beginning was quite exciting, but in reflection it was pointless. There were other ways to be able to tell the story, and it made me think that it might have just been included so that the free 10% given by kindle would encourage people to buy it. Whilst this part of the story was referred to occasionally throughout the novel those parts weren’t needed either.

After the rather exciting start the tempo really slowed down are Armen started his story. The story is very much Vartan’s story to start with, but it is told by Armen. I often got frustrated at how much Armen seemed to know about Vartan’s life even when he wasn’t present. I can’t imagine that even the closest of brothers would reveal such deep thoughts and feelings to each other, and some of the smaller events probably wouldn’t be shared either. It made the writing seem a bit clunky to me, and I think that if Mekaelian wanted to get both the brothers side of things and stories then he would have been better telling the story in a different way than completely in Armen’s voice.

I also found Vartan’s relationship with Nadia to be rather superficial and unbelievable. I couldn’t see where the love was coming from. Maybe that is because it was told in Armen’s voice, but it wasn’t detailed enough to be a love story.

There was also a sort of philosophical element which seemed like it was jammed in to give meaning to the events. And, whilst something like that would have an effect on someone’s outlook on life I don’t think it needed to be a solution for Armen searching for something.

All the different elements did make me wonder if the author really knew what he wanted to write about. Did he want to write a story about the Armenian Genocide? Did he want a coming of age novel? Did he want a story of everyday life for Armenians? Did he want a love story? It just seemed a bit like he’d crammed lots of ideas together.

In terms of learning about the Armenian Genocide it probably made it worth reading for me, however there are probably better ways to learn about it, and maybe even other novels?

2.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£6.19)

Paperback (£16.38)

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Filed under Fiction review, Historical

Top 10 Books Set in War Time


Top 10 Sites I Visit that AREN'T About Books

It’s Tuesday again so The Broke and the Bookish are hosting Top Ten Tuesday.

This week it’s Top 10 Books set for… my old post on books set in wartime has been one of the most popular in the lifetime of my blog, so I’ve decided to update it. Some of the books are the same, some have changed.

Links lead to reviews, pictures lead to amazon. In no particular order.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith Kerr, book, book cover

1) When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit- Judith Kerr is a semi-autobiographical book which features a Jewish family fleeing from Nazi Germany. It’s one of the first World War novels I can remember reading, although I read a lot around the same time (most notably Carrie’s War, Goodbye Marriane, Goodnight Mister Tom, The Peppermint Pig), and it’s the first of a series of three books.

 

Regeneration, Pat Barker, book, book cover

 

2) Regeneration- Pat Baker Pat Baker has written a fair few war novels (I’ve reviewed Double Vision on the blog, which is more modern) but the Regeneration trilogy is by far her best (of what I’ve read, anyway). It is set in a hospital where shell-shock victims are treated, with the aim of sending them back to the trenches

 

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks, book, book cover
3) Birdsong- Sebastian Faulks this love and war story was a favourite of mine for a long time.

 

 

 

The shouting wind, linda newbery, book, book cover
4) The Shouting Wind- Linda Newbery, a favourite of mine as a teenager. All about a girl working for the RAF (as a sort of air controller) during WW2 who falls in love with one of the pilots. It’s the first of a series which follows three generations of a family, but it’s the best.

 

5) A God in Ruins- Kate Atkinson follows the life of Teddy, a significant part of which includes him being in the RAF. Very emotive.

 

 

 

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet, Jamie Ford, book, book cover
6) Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet- Jamie Ford tells the story of a Chinese boy, with a Japanese best friend who lives in America during the time of Pearl Harbour. It’s a side of the war which is more rarely covered. When I wrote the original version of this post I said that this was one of the best books set during wartime which I’d read recently, it still remains a firm favourite

 

Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay, book, book cover

7) Sarah’s Key- Tatiana de Rosnay As with The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Sarah’s Key is based on a less covered side of the war. This time in occupied Paris, and with rounding up of Jews there. It is heart wrenching. Since writing the original version of this post I think I’ve come to appreciate Sarah’s key more, certainly parts of it stick rather significantly in my memory.

 

 

Remembrance, Teresa Breslin, book, book cover
8) Remembrance- Teresa Breslin another book I read as a teenager, and it remains one of the best war novels I’ve read. Follows five young people through WW1, the most memorable scenes for me were with the young woman who became a nurse.

 

 


9) The Book Thief- Markus Zusak sad bit also beautiful story of a girl living in Germany during WW2. The story is narrated by death and includes a hidden Jewish man amongst other things. The film is well worth watching too

the almond tree, book, book cover

10) The Almond Tree- Michelle Cohen Corasanti the only one on my list which is not set during the world wars. This one is about the Israel/Palestine conflict, and it’s my recommendation of the moment.

Special mentions:Pegasus Falling: indie book about a paratrooper who ends up in a concentration camp, and his life afterwards.

Gone With the Wind: not strictly a war book, although it does feature the war of independence.

– Captain Correli’s Mandolin: More of a love story set during the war really.

The Kommandant’s Girl: about a Jewish woman in Poland during Nazi occupation who is hidden in plain sight and become the girlfriend of a Nzi Kommandant to help the resistance.

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Filed under Memes, Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Books Set in War Time


Top 10 Sites I Visit that AREN'T About Books

It’s Tuesday again so The Broke and the Bookish are hosting Top Ten Tuesday.

This week it’s Top 10 Books set in… I’ve chosen to do top 10 books set in wartime because it’s something I read a lot of, and, it’s something I’ve been reading since childhood.

Links lead to reviews, pictures lead to amazon. In no particular order.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith Kerr, book, book cover

1) When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit- Judith Kerr is a semi-autobiographical book which features a Jewish family fleeing from Nazi Germany. It’s one of the first World War novels I can remember reading, although I read a lot around the same time (most notably Carrie’s War, Goodbye Marriane, Goodnight Mister Tom, The Peppermint Pig), and it’s the first of a series of three books.

 

Regeneration, Pat Barker, book, book cover

 

2) Regeneration- Pat Baker Pat Baker has written a fair few war novels (I’ve reviewed Double Vision on the blog, which is more modern) but the Regeneration trilogy is by far her best (of what I’ve read, anyway). It is set in a hospital where shell-shock victims are treated, with the aim of sending them back to the trenches

 

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks, book, book cover
3) Birdsong- Sebastian Faulks this love and war story was a favourite of mine for a long time.

 

 

 

The shouting wind, linda newbery, book, book cover
4) The Shouting Wind- Linda Newbery, a favourite of mine as a teenager. All about a girl working for the RAF (as a sort of air controller) during WW2 who falls in love with one of the pilots. It’s the first of a series which follows three generations of a family, but it’s the best.

 

 

Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, book, book cover
5) Captain Correli’s Mandolin- Louis de Bernières this is another former favourite (The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts blew it out of the water). Not so much a war story as a story of love set in the time of war, beautiful.

 

 

 

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet, Jamie Ford, book, book cover
6) Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet- Jamie Ford. This is one of the best war novels I’ve read recently, a recommendation from Judith. It tells the story of a Chinese boy, with a Japanese best friend who lives in America during the time of Pearl Harbour. It’s a side of the war which is more rarely covered.

Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay, book, book cover

7) Sarah’s Key- Tatiana de Rosnay As with The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Sarah’s Key is based on a less covered side of the war. This time in occupied Paris, and with rounding up of Jews there. It is heart wrenching.

 

 

Remembrance, Teresa Breslin, book, book cover
8) Remembrance- Teresa Breslin another book I read as a teenager, and it remains one of the best war novels I’ve read. Follows five young people through WW1, the most memorable scenes for me were with the young woman who became a nurse.

 

 

City of Women, David Gilham, book, book cover

9) City of Women- David Gillham is another one set outside the normal path. It’s all about resistance in Germany.

the almond tree, book, book cover

10) The Almond Tree- Michelle Cohen Corasanti the only one on my list which is not set during the world wars. This one is about the Israel/Palestine conflict, and it’s my recommendation of the moment.

Special mentions:Pegasus Falling: indie book about a paratrooper who ends up in a concentration camp, and his life afterwards.

Gone With the Wind: not strictly a war book, although it does feature the war of independence.

40 Comments

Filed under Memes, Top 10 Tuesday