The haunting cover art, portraying a lovely young girl with two different colored eyes, is what first attracted me to this debut novel, The Gendarme. Trust me, once you finish this story it will stay with you for days to come.
In 1990, Emmett Conn is a 92 year old Turkish-American man, who is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor. In Georgia, to his family and friends he seems confused or senile. However, what has happened to Emmett is that after his surgery he is experiencing vivid dreams of World War I events he had previously or purposely forgotten. Memories that were lost, perhaps due to a war injury, have now returned some 70 years later.
The novel goes back and forth in time to when Emmett was a Turkish Gendarme who brought Armenians from Turkey in a death march to Syria.
"The original two thousand deportees have dwindled now to three hundred, many of these suffering from dysentery. A number of the guards are gone, too, leaving only three gendarmes, including myself to prod our group on its way. Our progress has been slower than before, maybe six or seven miles per day. At this pace it will take four or five days to reach our destination. Food is scarce, water even scarcer. The dead and dying increase daily. At the current rate of loss, only fifty or so of the deportees might actually make it to Aleppo."
Araxie is a lovely Armenian girl that Emmett becomes obsessed with and tries to protect. In his dreams he is reunited with his captive who he thought of as the love of his life. He is desperate to find her, and to beg her forgiveness for his sins of the past.
MY THOUGHTS - Even though this story is a work of fiction, I feel like I was given a painful lesson in history. Sadly, Armenian Genocide is a subject that I knew nothing about. The story is sad and haunting and tough to read in parts, but it is so well done that most readers will find themselves effortless and eagerly finishing the novel quicker than anticipated. It is clearly a story that demonstrates the evil that good people are capable of. The ending is not what I anticipated, but in some ways that was a good thing. I think this story would make an excellent movie.
RECOMMENDED - 4.5/5 stars