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Review: The Gendarme

October 21, 2010

Ninety-two year old Emmett Conn has been having some very vivid dreams lately.  His friends and family suspect he’s senile, and doctors blame the brain tumor they’ve discovered, but Emmett knows the dreams are true.  In the dreams, he’s in his native Turkey around World War I. Emmet (or Ahmet as he was originally named) was a gendarme who helped drive Armenians out of Turkey, through forced marches.   Araxie, a young woman who is in the group that Emmet marches, captivates him – at first because of her eyes, but later because of her strength, independence and fighting spirit.  Since the death march, Emmett has made a new life for himself in America and has suppressed her memory, but now that she’s come back to him in his dreams, he becomes obsessed with her again – his love for her has survived the years.

I’ve been anxious to read The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian ever since I saw that gorgeous cover (make sure you look at the front and the back), but the book didn’t enthrall me the way I’d hoped it would.  I’m not sure if it was just me or if it was the book, because so many other people have loved it.  The book switches from Emmett’s present day story to the early 1900’s and the death march and I found myself much more interested in the present day story.  I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t know enough about the Armenian Genocide or if I just needed a faster paced book at the time.

I don’t mean to imply that I hated The Gendarme, because I didn’t – I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.  Mustian’s writing is gorgeous and I think the story of the death march is an important one that should be told more.  I just felt like I needed more of the background so that I could understand some parts of the book better.  I probably should have read up on it, but I kept expecting to read some of the details in the book.  I also wanted to know more about Emmett’s present day life – his relationship with his daughter was strained and I could never figure out why.  She made some decisions about her father that I didn’t agree with and I felt like they were done out of spite.

If you’re at all interested in the Armenian genocide, you should give The Gendarme a try – I suspect you would like it more than I did – most of the people in my book club did.

Challenges: The Amy Einhorn Challenge

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
44 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2010 5:04 am

    This book has been on my wishlist ever since I’ve seen it around the blogosphere. Love the cover!

  2. October 21, 2010 5:35 am

    Interesting review as always.

  3. October 21, 2010 5:51 am

    We felt similarly about this one, as you know from our discussion!

  4. givingreadingachance permalink
    October 21, 2010 5:52 am

    When I read a book on any historical events, I never read up on the historical event, I expect to be told about them by the author. And if the author has intrigued me enough I later read up on it… so you expecting for more background info is natural and I think I will have the same issue.

    But you are right the cover is gorgeous and I’ve been thinking about this book too.. I am still not sure if I would want to read this one.

  5. October 21, 2010 6:20 am

    I think you pretty much had the same reaction I did. It was interesting, but something was just missing for me. I couldn’t become fully vested in the characters.

  6. October 21, 2010 6:50 am

    Oh Kathy…sorry you were not as thrilled with this book as I was.

  7. October 21, 2010 7:04 am

    I’m in your boat. I did enjoy the book, but wasn’t blown away. While I was enamoured with Araxie (probably because of her maturity, or her mystery), I felt Emmett was cold and never felt invested in his character. Still, I’m glad I read it because I learned about a part of history I never knew anything about. And Mark Mustian is such a nice guy!

  8. October 21, 2010 7:22 am

    That does look like a beautiful book. But it’s probably not for me. Thanks for the honest review!

  9. October 21, 2010 8:16 am

    I had such high expectations for this book, so I’m glad you sort of lowered them for me. 😉 I took this one out of the library recently and hope to get to it before it’s due back!

  10. October 21, 2010 8:36 am

    I’m still thinking whether or not to read the book. I really like the cover!

  11. October 21, 2010 8:46 am

    Hmm … sounds interesting, but I can see why you had the reaction you did.

    Maybe it is because I just wrote a review of it, but there are elements of this that remind me of Jane Mendelsohn’s “American Music.”

  12. October 21, 2010 8:49 am

    I got this one at SIBA and am actually really interested in giving it a chance and seeing what I think about it. I do think that I will be keeping both your comments and Sandy’s in my mind while I am reading though! Sorry that you didn’t love this one as much as you had hoped you would!

  13. October 21, 2010 8:50 am

    I have wondered about this one. I love the sound of it, adore the cover but still have stood on the sidelines .. undecided.

    Thanks for the review – I think this one can wait. 🙂

  14. October 21, 2010 9:29 am

    This book sounds really interesting but from your review it seems like they’re some key aspects missing to the story. It’s natural to want to know about the straining relationship between father and daughter. Great review.

  15. October 21, 2010 10:03 am

    I am always surprised when authors don’t give full details of historical events taking place in their novels. It can be a disappointing. I’m still going to give it a try but I appreciate the heads up so I know what to expect.

  16. October 21, 2010 10:07 am

    I’m sucked in by the cover of this as well, though you’re not the first person to mention that it needs a bit more background understanding to be truly appreciated. Thanks for the review!

  17. October 21, 2010 10:39 am

    It seems like a vital part of the book would have been some weaving in of the actual Armenian genocide. Not all that many Americans know about that part of the world or that particular part of its history. I’m going to pass on this rather than have to bone up first before reading it.

  18. October 21, 2010 11:10 am

    I really want to read this book but I’ve read plenty of mixed reviews, so you’re not alone in thinking that this book didn’t grip you. I would hate not getting the full background story too.

  19. Alyce permalink
    October 21, 2010 11:23 am

    The older person uncovering a repressed memory reminds me a bit of the plot of The Madonnas of Leningrad. I have read a lot of positive reviews of this one, so it was fun for me to get another perspective on this book.

  20. October 21, 2010 11:31 am

    I had the opposite problem. I liked the flashback story line more than the modern one. Different strokes for different folks. In any case, it was a good, not great, book. Great review!

  21. October 21, 2010 11:55 am

    Thanks! for sharing this great review.

  22. October 21, 2010 1:12 pm

    Kathy, thanks for your honest review. I am part Armenian, so this appeals to me for that reason, and also because you mention the gorgeous writing. 🙂

  23. October 21, 2010 1:56 pm

    Nice honest review. It would perhaps like it, or not, I just can’t tell

  24. October 21, 2010 2:28 pm

    I simply love the cover! Reminds me of the famous National Geographic cover of the woman with the mesmerizing green eyes. I think this would be a book I would love to read. Thanks for the honest review.

  25. October 21, 2010 5:29 pm

    I’m not sure how this one has passed by my radar but it actually sounds like one I’d really enjoy.

  26. October 21, 2010 6:50 pm

    I’m sorry you didn’t love this one as much as I did! Wonderfully written review, as always. 🙂

  27. October 21, 2010 7:04 pm

    I have that book and I couldn’t stick with it.

  28. October 21, 2010 8:51 pm

    I find your reaction interesting. I have it on my shelf to read also. I’ll keep your viewpoints in mind as I read.

  29. October 21, 2010 8:57 pm

    Given my husband is Armenian I have been wanting to read this.

  30. Erin permalink
    October 21, 2010 9:05 pm

    The cover of this one was so beautiful, but the first few pages I read didn’t draw me in. I ended up setting it aside. But the cover…lovely.

  31. October 21, 2010 9:25 pm

    I didn’t love this one either. In fact I think I liked it even less than you did. 🙂

  32. October 22, 2010 1:34 am

    I am so anxious to read this one! I have it on my shelf…I picked it up at SIBA but I have a long list to get through first. When I originally heard the storyline I had no idea about the genocide….completely clueless…and I love history! so this book truly intrigues me – I hope I’m not going to be disappointed by it because my hopes are so high…I really do want to learn about the historical aspect of the genocide…and the cover – wow! you’re right – it captivates me!

  33. October 22, 2010 3:08 am

    This sounds pretty interesting to me but I can understand why you didn’t like it as much as you’d hoped. Gorgeous cover, though!

  34. Cynthia V permalink
    October 22, 2010 3:47 am

    I’ve had my eye on this book for awhile now. Our library doesn’t have it…and I was actually thinking of purchasing it. Now I’m not so sure I will. I have really looked forward to reading this one. I usually only purchase books that I want to keep and re-read again.

  35. October 22, 2010 7:05 am

    Nicely done review. It’s a hard book to write about (I still haven’t written my own review) because the writing is wonderful, the potential of the story is great, but something was missing.

  36. October 22, 2010 8:56 am

    Ever since I received this book, it has never been removed from it’s home on my TBR shelves. I think it’s just going to remain there indefinitely.

  37. October 22, 2010 2:36 pm

    Oh … I hate when that happens — a book you had hoped to love is a bit disappointing.

    That cover is so striking though.

  38. October 22, 2010 8:36 pm

    I hate to be disappointed by a book that I have such high hopes for.

  39. October 23, 2010 9:27 am

    The reviews have been all over the place with this one. Several of my blogging buddies loved it, while others like yourself didn’t. This is one of those times where I just have to dive in and try it out for myself. Pretty much like Edgar Sawtelle where you either loved it or hated it…I loved it. I don’t know much about the death march but I’m very intrigued by this story and how I will respond to it. Thanks again for a very honest and thoughtful review. 😀

  40. October 23, 2010 1:55 pm

    I have this book on my shelf and was primarily swayed by the cover. I’m looking forward to reading it, but will also bear your thoughts in mind as well while I do. Really insightful review, as always!

  41. October 23, 2010 8:09 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one. It had a TON of hype… I wonder if that has anything to do with some people feeling disappointed with it.

  42. October 24, 2010 9:49 am

    I completely felt the same way too! Good gracious I now feel completely redeemed for my own feelings towards this book. I really wanted to LOVE the book but that did not filter through as I read on.

    I felt the premise for Araxie’s feelings for Ahmet somewhat inane and I could not intellectualize the “HOW” to the love proponent. It just did not seem possible and albeit it is HIS love for her that propels him throughout his existence.

    I had the same reaction and longed for more on the nature of his relationship to his estranged daughter, grandson and his wife.

    The strength is the vocalization of the Armenian genocide yet the plot faltered for its “LOVE” redemption line.

    THANK YOU! I feel elated to know that I’m not the only one who felt this way, ambivalent and “eh it was an OK read”.

    Now back to looking at your recipes…

    PS Sorry for this long diatribe … I get long winded when riled about a book 😉 You should see me when I’m looking at your Weekend Recipes ;P

  43. October 25, 2010 5:26 pm

    Sorry to hear you didn’t like this as much as you had hoped. Like you, I have had great things about it.

  44. October 27, 2010 9:32 pm

    It certainly sounds intriguing, but I’m not sure it would my type of thing.

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