I’ve written very little of my historical fiction about Armenians so far. I’ve spent the past 18 months immersed in research. Since I’ve not written historical fiction before, part of my research has included reading several historical fictions that have done well and had at least some similarity to my topic. A number of those included books about the Jewish holocaust. And, of course, I’ve read stories by and about survivors of the Armenian massacres from 1895 through the early 1920’s.
All of the books struck me as having one stand-out similarity: the strength of the survivors–when the worst was on the horizon, when they were immersed in the horrors, and then, perhaps most amazingly, as they built new lives in new lands.
My most recent novel reading (in between non-fiction sources) included a novel and a novella written by Antonia Arslan. Skylark Farm felt disjointed to me, although it was highly praised – key storyline components seemed to disappear or shift inexplicably. However, the basic story could be discerned behind my confusion. What came through clearly was the rock-hard fortitude of the characters facing unimaginable horrors and cruelty, watching their loved ones brutally murdered, children handed off to strangers in the scant hope of giving them a chance at life.
I read Skylark Farm on Kindle. If there was any up front information, I skipped over it to get to the story.
Silent Angel was a soft cover book, and right on the title page it read “Translated by Siobhan Nash-Marshall.” Aha – that may have explained my issues with Skylark Farm. Reading Silent Angel was a joy – smooth and clear, and a beautifully touching (if tragic) story. Perhaps different translators. Perhaps a less complex (and shorter) story to translate.
What struck me in both of these, as well as the stories I’d read previously, was the strength with which the Armenians dealt with abject cruelties and tragic losses–unimaginable decisions in unimaginable circumstances. Determination to accept death when there’s no alternative, and equal determination to create a new life–strengthened by the Christian Armenians’ unfaltering connection with God.