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A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War, by Leila Tarazi Fawaz

Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp, xx, 384. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0674735498.

The Experience of the Great War on the Middle East

In late 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary, which touched off a serious of events that still roil the Middle East, a century later. In A Land of Aching Hearts, Prof. Fawaz (Tufts) gives us, not a chronological account of the Great War in the Middle East, but rather a look at the war as it was experienced by and as it affected the peoples of the region, a seriously neglected subject. 

Fawaz opens with a chapter outlining the events leading to Ottoman participation in the war, and se follows this with an excellent overview of the campaigns in the region. She then devotes separate chapters to the effects of the war on those who lived it. In two chapters Fawaz explores the ways in which the war affected the ordinary people of the region, whether Turks, Arabs, or Jews. There follow two more that deal some of the troops who fought the war, one on the Turks and one on the very overlooked Indian troops. In a final chapter Fawaz examines how the region’s people adjusted to and explained their wartime experiences in the postwar period. In an epilogue, Fawaz discusses remembrance, memory, and memorialization.

Fawaz writes well. She often integrates into her account anecdotes about the experiences of the individual soldier or a particular family, and uses excerpts from letters, songs, interviews, novels, that help illustrate the different ways in which the people of the region, soldiers and civilians, experienced and coped with the war. A Land of Aching Hearts would make interesting reading for anyone interested the origins of the modern Middle East, the Great War, or the human experience of war.

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   


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