Paris during World War II was occupied by the Germans. The French were divided between Collaborators and the Resistance. The Jews were shipped to work camps and Buchenwald. Against this historical backdrop, Maral belongs to the Armenian deportee community, those few that survived Armenian genocide 25 years earlier.
In this position Maral's community is innocent, neither persecutors nor victims. Maral is additionally an innocent as an adolescent girl, a studious, intellectual adolescent girl. Mostly the war happens around her ... Jewish neighbors are taken away, friends of her brother are arrested and shipped away, but also her teachers encourage her to apply to the Sorbonne and she raises chickens.
And, Maral falls in love and grows up. After a meeting her first boyfriend in an abandoned apartment, she observes,
Now I had a new secret. It was getting hard for me to distinguish between the lies the war required and those necessary for growing up.On of the appeal of children's stories about humanity's horrors is the myth/hope that children can pass through these events unscathed. This particular story has a happy ending, and I'd like to generalize to believe/hope that people really survive and live happily ever after.
Like Maral's father says of her child,
Of course he's walking. What do you think? Babies eventually walk and talk and ... do what humans do.If you are optimistic about what humans do, you will enjoy this book.
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on June 25, 2013. I received the book on July 6, 2013.