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Blood-Dark Track: A Family History Paperback – February 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta UK (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 186207478X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862074781
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,686,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The son of a Turkish mother and an Irish father, lawyer and novelist O'Neill was born in Ireland, raised in the Hague, spent summers in his mother's hometown on the Mediterranean and studied in Britain. When he was 10 or 11, in the mid-1970s, he learned that both of his late grandfathers were imprisoned during WWII. Twenty years later, he took it upon himself to learn why. The quest to determine whether his IRA-soldier grandfather was a murderer and his Turkish grandfather, a hotelier, was an Axis spy took him from County Cork to the coast of Turkey, and deep into the "dream-bright horrors" of history. O'Neill's Irish grandfather, jailed for five years for IRA activities, shared an internment camp with Nazi and Allied POWs held there "in accordance with Ireland's neutrality policy." At the same time, his Turkish grandfather suffered psychological abuse and extreme paranoia in various British and Free French military prisons filled with Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian " `suspects and known pro-Axis sympathizers.' " During his research, O'Neill collected facts about everything from the poison used to eliminate the fungus that destroyed the Irish potato crop in the late 1840s to ethnic divisions among Armenians, Muslims and non-Muslim Turks in pre-WWII Turkey. Anyone interested in the Middle East, Ireland or WWII will find this account fascinating. Readers looking for tension, family drama and pathos, however, may be frustrated with the undifferentiated details and narrative detours that sometimes encumber this story of a grandson trying to connect with the grandfathers he never knew. Photos, 2 maps.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

O'Neill, a novelist (The Breezes) and lawyer, writes a compelling family history interwoven with the politics of World War II. O'Neill sought the reasons for the internment of his Turkish and Irish grandfathers during the war, Jim O'Neill in an infamous camp in Ireland, Joseph Dadak by Britain in Palestine. He easily finds his Irish grandfather's IRA history. His Turkish grandfather seems a genuine victim until O'Neill digs deep and, like the British, suspects him of espionage. This is a voyage of self-exploration, a grandson coming to terms with family history previously forbidden. While the reader may not find the denouement as gratifying as did the author, the journey is worth the price. O'Neill's adventures in genealogy and the interviews he pursued keep the reader drawn close. Useful for academic libraries and recommended for public libraries, especially those with Middle East concentrations. Robert Moore, Framingham, MA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the finest books published in many years. On the surface the book tells the stories of O'Neill's grandfathers. Both stories are of interest, both touch on historical events of interest; but it is the softness and absolute intelligence of O'Neill's voice that makes this book a classic. In relating the experiences of his grandfathers, O'Neill takes us through his own intellectual struggle as he attempts to apply the rational tools of the barrister/philosopher to the world of strong ethnic identities that haunted him from the world of his grandparents. If this were not enough, O'Neill treats us to a rather fine sense of humor -- again, never obvious but always there and always effective.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I simply could not put this book down. Much more than an entertaining portrait of early 20th century life in some remote places, this is a highly informative social and political history and a compelling reflection on nationalism, patriotism and the fears, violence and intrigues which sometimes accompany them. Mr. O'Neill obviously has talents for both research and scene-painting, and his writing is both literate and engaging. After 340 pages, I was sorry to put the book away. But I feel wiser now that I have made the journey with Mr. O'Neill.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gordon S. Linoff on March 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Blood Dark Track" provides a fascinating background into the history of both Ireland and Turkey during the first half of the Twentieth Century. These two very disparate regions actually have more in common than we would initially suppose: neutrality during WWII, an antipathy to British Imperialism, persecution of religious minorities, and layers upon layers of history underlying bloody Twentieth Century history.
These areas also combine in the persona of the author, Joseph O'Neill, who has provided an intriguing personal narrative of his own family. His father's side, Catholic, poor, and Republican from Cork; his mother's, Catholic, bourgeois, and apolitical from Mersin (a coastal city near Syria). Their meeting is as fortuitous as it was unlikely.
The author deftly melds the pieces into a coherent whole, despite geographic, cultural, and temporal distances. Because of the personal connection of the author to events, people, and places, it reads more like a novel than a history.
Informing the story is the author's discovery of his grandfathers, both as family and as characters in two distinct, though subtly parallel, historical contexts. I was surprised to find the story so gripping that I finished it in three days.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mick Gold on January 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant book. The author searches for the reasons why his two grandfathers - one Irish, one Turkish - both ended up in prison during the Second World War. His Turkish grandfather, Joseph Dakad, was interned by the British in Palestine on suspicion of spying for the Germans. His Irish grandfather, Jim O'Neill, was interned by his own government in the Curragh as a member of the IRA. By subtly intercutting the two stories, the book looks at nationalism in two very different contexts - the polyglot post-Ottoman culture of Turkey in the years between the two world wars, and the hidden story of Irish republicanism between De Valera coming to power and the resumption of The Troubles in 1966. In searching for the reasons why these two very different men were interned, O'Neill illuminates the unspoken ideas of nationalism and individuality that permeate (like DNA)the two sides of his family. While he sifts through British intelligence reports on "undesirable" activity in Jerusalem, and discovers who really murdered Admiral Somerville in West Cork in 1936, O'Neill's book is shot through with contemporary echoes of his grandfathers' ordeals. As the author watches Bernadette Sands reject the Good Friday Agreement in the name of Ireland's republican martyrs, and questions Yitzhak Shamir about the morality of political assassination, we realise that the ghosts of these men still haunt today's headlines, and our ancestors can assume the power of an unconscious force over our political reflexes.
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More About the Author

Joseph O'Neill was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1964 and grew up in Mozambique, South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Holland. His previous works include the novels This is the Life and The Breezes and the non-fiction book Blood-Dark Track, a family history centered on the mysterious imprisonment of both his grandfathers during World War II, which was an NYT Notable Book. He writes regularly for The Atlantic. He lives with his family in New York City.

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