Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: The Gendarme by Mark Mustian

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (September 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399156348
ISBN-13: 978-0399156342

Told from Emmet's (Ahmet's) perspective, the story alternates between 1990 in the USA and Turkey during the WWI time frame. Now that 92 year old Emmet Conn, born Ahmet Khan, is old and sick his dreams start to haunt him. Seeming like fleeting memories, wispy and hazy as smoke, hard to grab onto, he is not sure if they are  just dreams or real memories. Sometimes the images are most disturbing. He likens it to a continuing story told in pieces.

"For me the past is so dominant. Memory receding, obscuring-discovering something new is like finding hidden treasure."
He dreams of being a gendarme in the Turkish military responsible for moving groups of Armenian deportees across the desert to Syria. Araxie, a young girl in the group, attracts his attention; she is so arresting with eyes of two different colors. Copying some of the other gendarmes, he takes her from the group one night with the intention of raping her but when she looks at him and simply asks him why, his better instincts take over and he then becomes her protector. She returns the favor one night alerting Ahmet when another jealous gendarme, Mustafa, was set to attack him.

The trek is arduous with many dangers and deaths occurring daily. The deportees are dispirited, starving, dehydrated and sick with dysentery. On the march, Ahmet  thanks Araxie for saving him but she is unresponsive, almost delirious from sickness and just barely managing to put one foot in front of the other.

The author puts the reader right inside Ahmet's head and the exquisite writing makes it plain to see what Ahmet sees and feel what he feels.

"During other periods I question myself, wondering why I am here, why I covet her and not others. She is haggard now, the bones visible in her thin shoulders, her arms rigid and stick-like. she smells like rotten meat. The eyes that had so beguiled me before squint now against glare and sand, her lips swollen, her face burned by the sun. Still, I worry, I plot. I dream. I will not let her die."

In the present day, Emmet, is being treated for a brain tumor and the story tells of how his dreams and memories of the past come back to affect the present. He ruminates about his past life and wonders how things could have been different. When his neighbor visits him in the hospital, she tells him she doesn't know that much about him. Emmet tries to tell her.

" I am from Turkey. I fought in the war. I was injured, then rescued. An immigrant. A father. I cannot tell her, though of before, of what I know now, of what I remember. That I was a gendarme, a . . . . murderer. That this is my shame."

This powerfully written book is so emotionally moving, it embodies the indominability of the human spirit and the power of forgiveness. The Gendarme evoked such vivid images, I felt as if I were watching Emmet's dreams and memories on a movie screen. This is just the briefest of synopses trying not to include any spoilers, but I hope it at least piqued your interest and you will get a chance to read Emmet's narrative yourself. Although some of the incidents in the book are disturbing, I got so caught up in this story, I could not put the book down. 5*****

Disclosure: A review (arc) copy of the book was provided by Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books through SA.


  1. This sounds incredible. Brilliant review :)

  2. Terrific review! Just added it to my list :)

  3. I'm dying to read this book, but I'm holding off a little while because it's my book club's pick for October - if I read it too early, I won't remember enough to discuss it.

  4. Kathy, please let us know what your book club thought of the story. It's haunting and not too easily forgotten. The Big Guy had to cook supper last night as I could not, would not put the book down.

  5. What a fabulous review. Definitely a book that needs reading.

  6. I loved your powerful review and I just know that this is one that I MUST read!!

  7. It sounds lovely, something about that title just made me have to read this review at once. Can't say why though

  8. I'm so glad to hear this book is so good. I have a copy also and I'm hoping to get to it soon. One that you can't put down is an excellent recommendation.

  9. This sounds wonderful and one I'll definitely be on the look out for.

    Great review - thanks! :-)

  10. I hope all enjoy reading the book. I have to many books waiting to be read to add this one also. Maybe in a year or two. But, than there will be many more new books until then. Decisions, decisions!

  11. Wow ... what a review. Sounds like quite a book.

  12. Glad u loved this one; I did as well. Great review Kaye.

  13. Wonderful review! It sounds like such an amazing story. And you really expressed how powerful a story it is. Thanks for sharing this one. I'm putting it on my list!

  14. I see that the haunting face on the cover is only the beginning of this tale. Excellent review Kaye. Thanks.

  15. It sounds wonderful! Your review is the one that has finally convinced me to add this book to my wish list.


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