“I’ve read many books, listened to speakers, heard the survivor’s stories, but there always seems to be something missing; something more personal…”
“Not even death will part us, my love.” Sometimes words transcend time. If only words could halt it. Days slip by almost unseen. Months, seasons, years — all gone in the blink of an eye. What was once is no more and what is to come hardly matters. Nothing can bring her back. Nothing.
The past haunts Christophorus Plato Stavrides, and yet he never speaks of it. His grief is silent — a private torture. All he has left of his beloved Aspasia is their daughter, an old photograph, some silk slippers, and a memory. What he would give to hold Aspasia in his arms again. To look into her gentle face, and make love to her under a starlight sky.
Aspasia had been a talented weaver of carpets. Such skill. Such dedication. Why? Why could the world not have left them alone? They had been happy. Content. They were meant to have had a life together. A long life. It would have been a life built on a foundation of love, family, and carpet weaving. What had they known of war? What had they known of hate? It was those in power that brought the death and the destruction, not them. Not their neighbours. Why? What different lives they could have had if the soldiers had not come.
However, time marches on regardless, and now Christophorus is an old man. It breaks Christophorus’ heart to know that his grandson, Christos, has no interest in the carpet weaving industry of his forefathers. It is a university education which Christos seeks — and with that comes questions. So many questions and until now, Christophorus has avoided answering them. His secrets were his to keep. But, the boy is persistent, and maybe it would not hurt to tell his grandson and his daughter the truth about what happened all those years ago. And although it will open wounds that have never really healed, Christophorus knows that his story and more importantly Aspasia’s story, should be told.
From the busy industrial town of Uşak, the tranquillity of the sleepy village of Stavrodromi and Pınarbaşı, to the horror of the battle at Sarıkamış and the desperate journey to the relative safety of Constantinople, The Carpet Weaver of Uşak, by Kathryn Gauci is the enthralling story of a village torn apart by war and a friendship that could never be destroyed.
Some books seduce you by their opening sentence and do not let go of you until the final full-stop. The Carpet Weaver of Uşak is such a book. Gauci has lavishly evoked the world in which this remarkable novel is set in, and she has woven a tale as complicated and yet as beautiful as any Turkish carpet design. The narrative is flawless, and the story is unforgettable.
Gauci deals with the history of this time with sensitivity as well as a realism that is almost tangible. The plight of the villagers of Stavrodromi and Pınarbaşı is utterly heartbreaking. Theirs was a sleepy village where for generations nothing had changed, and the fact that the inhabitants were a mix of Greek Orthodoxs and Muslim Turks mattered not. First and foremost, they were neighbours. Friends. And now they were being asked to hate each other. The relationships dynamics within the village during these troubled times was masterfully portrayed.
Gauci has embroidered into this book a kaleidoscope of emotions — love, hate, fear, forgiveness — nothing of human nature is left unexplored. The relationship between Aspasia and her best friend Saniye clearly demonstrated the love that these two women had for each other. According to the law they were meant to despise each other, and instead, they both performed extraordinary acts of courage to protect one another. It was very humbling to read.
Likewise, the gentle love story of Christophorus and Aspasia was a wonderful work of art. They are both highly appealing characters whom I adored instantly. Their story is utterly absorbing and incredibly heartwarming. Although, I will warn you, be prepared to shed a few tears — I certainly did.
The Carpet Weaver of Uşak is, without a doubt, a monumental work of scholarship. Not only does Gauci have a keen academic eye for the history of this era, as well as the history and traditions of carpet weaving, she also has a gift for what can only be described as crystalline storytelling. This is a story that does not threaten to mesmerise — it does.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.