By Nancy Kricorian
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.00, 384 pages
All the Light There Was, by Nancy Kricorian, takes on a common topic (the Nazi occupation of Paris) but with the unique twist of representing the Armenian immigrant experience.
In this novel the reader meets Maral Pegorian, an innocent 14-year-old girl living in 1940s Paris. Maral lives in a cramped apartment with her family, like many Armenians and Jews in her neighborhood. She soon loses school friends and neighbors as the Jews are rounded up. Those left in the neighborhood are fearful and hungry, but not too scared to fight back in their own little ways – by hiding a Jewish child, spreading pamphlets or showing up for rallies. Maral experiences death firsthand, as well as her first love. When the boy she loves, Zaven, is imprisoned with his brother, Maral is distraught as the families grieve. When World War II is over, those who have survived have their own losses to deal with as they try to resume “normal” life.
“This once was the land of baguettes and butter. Now it’s the land of turnips.”
Kricorian’s tale is based on real history and gives the reader a glimpse of the Armenian experience in 1940s Paris. As you read this descriptive tale, your stomach will ache with hunger and you will be convinced that Maral’s nightmares are your own. This reviewer could not put this book down. Once she started reading, the story was immersive as quicksand!
Reviewed by Seniye Groff