From Publishers Weekly
Smyrna was a prosperous, cosmopolitan port on Turkey's Aegean coast where Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews and other nationalities lived in harmony. In his searingly vivid account of Smyrna's destruction by the Turks in 1922, acclaimed popular historian Milton (Nathaniel's Nutmeg
) begins with a fairy tale–like description of the city focused lopsidedly on the wealthy European dynasties known as Levantines. But Milton renders an astute account of the clash of Greek and Turkish nationalisms and the unhelpful meddling of Western powers, particularly Britain, which supported a Greek incursion into Turkey. When the defending Turkish troops under Mustafa Kemal (aka Ataturk) took Smyrna in September 1922, a horrific killing spree of Greeks and Armenians began, and hundreds of thousands of refugees were trapped on the quayside between the sea and a city willfully torched by the Turks as a score of foreign vessels looked on. Milton draws on eyewitness accounts to render these events in all their horror, and ends with an almost incredible rescue led by an unlikely hero. Milton powerfully renders this tragic tale of an army that came to liberate Smyrna and instead massacred its citizens and burned their prize to the ground in a vengeful frenzy. (Aug.)
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In September, 1922, after the Turkish forces of Mustafa Kemal defeated a Greek army that had recklessly occupied the Anatolian city of Smyrna, members of Smyrnas Greek, Armenian, and expatriate communities were killed, raped, and robbed. Soon, a half million people were trapped on the ports narrow wharves, the city in flames behind them; "The streets were stacked with dead," a British officer wrote. Milton weaves the Armenian genocide, the birth of modern Turkey, and the tragic inanities of Versailles into his story, but his focus is the destruction of the multi-ethnic, religiously diverse cosmopolis of Smyrna (now the Turkish city of Izmir). He has a tendency to idolize the Levantines, dynasties of European "merchant princes" who remained oblivious as Greeks and Turks committed atrocities closer and closer to their enclave. Miltons more compelling hero is Asa Jennings, a five-foot-tall Y.M.C.A. administrator who, by bluffing, begging, and desperately improvising, single-handedly saved tens of thousands of lives.
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