The Carpet Weaver of Uşak
Usak is the nearby center of the carpet weaving industry. In the early period of 1914, Greeks and Turks work together to create these masterpieces that one can virtually see in the wonderful descriptions of old classical and new styles of designing and weaving rugs. Even the methods of creation are described as women work from home and some work from factories in hand-tying the strands that eventually become a completed rug. During those times of work, some workers have conversations that grow and unite these women stronger by the year. Husbands, lovers, pregnancies, family lives and death are united to the point that when the wars between Greeks and Turks begin, these women help each other give birth and survive with each other when their spouses are forced to serve for opposing sides. The carpet weaving industry almost disappears as war becomes more dangerous to all sides!
In the beginning, even in war, soldiers on both sides do their jobs. Many die and the sorrow is evident everywhere. But that doesn’t stop some from rescuing those who are in danger of capture. In 1919 the war becomes worse with the arrival of the Greeks at Smyrna. In the meydan, the Fountain of the Sun and Moon now becomes the place where punishments, mainly death sentences, carried out. The treasured unity is shattered!
Throughout this novel, many die or suffer from prevailing grief, lack of food, loss of children and spouses, and so much more. The author does such a good job at describing each scene that the reader is drawn into the entire account by numerous images that make one think and feel. What stands out, beside the horrors of this war that too few people are aware of, is the ties that bind these two friends and families when distrust prevails.
This is a story that readers will not soon forget, one that celebrates love, laughter, trust and endurance as well as what denies, divides and shatters tradition! Outstanding!!!
September 22, 2018
The female inhabitants of both villages are expert carpet weavers who sell their work to the traders in Uşak, the centre of the province. These are the last days of the Ottoman Empire where capitulations have been granted to the Levantines in İzmir, Istanbul and other important trade centers in the country.
The inhabitants of both villages know very little of the world outside their surroundings and Uşak, and continue their business as usual, cohabiting in the same geography.
Aspasia and Saniye are friends from childhood. They share their secrets and joy, and help each other in times of trouble. Sometimes they need the advice of Ayşe Bacı, Saniye’s mother-in-law, sometimes they listen to Aspasia’s elders. Both are childless, but finally Aspasia gives birth to a daughter, Elpida, and Saniye shares her friend’s joy.
When WWII breaks, the news travels to the village, but the locals have no idea about the conflict, nor how this will affect their lives. When the war ends and the Greek Army occupies Western Turkey, beginning with the İzmir area, things change. The Greeks come all the way to the village, causing havoc, burning houses and shooting the Turks who defy them. The Turkish and Greek residents regard each other with suspicion. Their world has turned upside down, but some of the old friendships survive, despite the odds.
When Atatürk’s War of Independence begins, and the Greeks are finally defeated, the situation changes once more, forcing the Greeks to leave the country. Yet, the friendship between the villagers of different cultures still continues. The Greeks who helped the Turks during the Greek occupation, are now helped and supported by the Turks.
Aspasia is pregnant again, about to give birth. Her husband, Christophorus, has found an escape route with the help of Saniye’s husband, Cemal, and Ayşe Bacı.
Will they be able to escape? Will they ever see each other again or their village?
Many years later, in Athens, Christophorus tells his grandson, and his daughter, Elpida, the missing parts of the story, and what he had to leave behind in Asia Minor.
A story of love, friendship, and loss; a tragedy that affects the lives of many on both sides of the Aegean, and their struggle to survive under new circumstances, as casualties of a war beyond their control.
Kahryn Gauci weaves her poignant story and characters with the expert hands of a carpet weaver, bringing out the colours and the dark threads with each knot that goes into the loom.
September 24, 2018
This situation is beautifully described, and centres around characters of genuine feeling and courage as they struggle through the terrible problems that war always brings. Dreadful poverty sweeps through areas where once everyone lived in sufficiency. The awful consequences rage into shocking colour as we sympathise deeply for the characters who seem so alive.
Everything comes alive within these pages. We cry with the pain and desperation, we smile and sigh for the kind understanding and courageous help the villages share with each other. History leaps into reality and we learn to care not only for the people but also for their lost traditions and faiths.
I highly recommend this book. It was a pleasure to read, and although it is not always a happy tale, it is always gripping.