This novel reads like a thriller except that, tragically, it is based on truth. In Angel of Aleppo, we hear the story of Anoush, a young, beautiful, and virginal sixteen-year-old.
After a ruthless attack on her family and her village, she finds herself under the control of Army guards. Along with many other Armenians, she is forced to move from Anatolia to Aleppo and survive the Mesopotamian desert. Enduring insurmountable grief and never-ending hunger, she must also evade the pursuit of one evil Army leader, Ibrahim, who is notorious for his savage treatment of women, and desperate for her to be part of his harem.
Does he fulfil his quest, or does she manage to evade him?
In the telling of her story, readers are provided with a historical account of the Armenian Genocide. Author Jon Cocks has meticulously researched multiple documents to create a narrative sequence that reflects these largely untold events. The Armenian genocide was led by Talaat Pasha of the Ottoman Ittihadists during the years 1915-23 and led to the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians.
Anoush is a courageous woman who works tirelessly as a nurse and, in so doing, becomes known as the Angel of Aleppo. She never stops giving generously and fighting for what is right, whilst still constantly living in terror of both the war and her pursuer, Ibrahim.
About a third of the way through, I had to stop reading for a while, such was the devastation I felt. It seemed that each time a light or way out appeared, it was just as quickly taken away. In the reading of this book, you feel the heightened states of anxiety, apprehension, and fear that was ever-present for Anoush.
It is an absolute cliffhanger novel and belongs on the big screen. I would like to see this book made into a film. Cocks’ skill in writing is how he interweaves history in her story in such a way that makes you feel on edge throughout, desperate for the chase to stop. The story of the Armenian people’s survival in the caves is unimaginable.
In the novel, he has planted some real-life characters: Wegner, Morgenthau, and Adelaide’s very own Reverend Cresswell. Some Australian soldiers from WW1 were also connected to the Armenians, reporting about them upon their return from battle. For this reason, some of their thoughts have been represented and we hear their voice in some chapters. We also hear the voices of a few other Armenians, in addition to a chapter from Anoush’s relentless pursuer, Ibrahim.
Cocks’ novel raises the question: How can so many of us not know about this? Have you ever read a story you don’t want to know about, when it is a story that everyone should know about? How much can happen in a few weeks or years of a life that lasts a lifetime?