In her debut novella, My Name is Revenge, Ashley Kalagian Blunt opened a gourmet challenge to me. Like many of the ‘tasting plates’ in fashionable restaurants, this story presented great food for the gourmand reader, and left me hungry for more. The meal also included a ‘Reflective Essay’, Writing Violence, Arousing Curiosity – a valuable discussion of the challenges of writing about shocking aggression and genocide when the history is still current, and when the individuals who have lived it, and their opponents, are still alive.
Historical fiction is deservedly a popular genre, as it provides the opportunity to build a picture not only of the true tragedy of the endless chains of aggression and destructive human history over millennia, but of the devastating, lasting effects on families. As in many good historical novels, the narrator and hero, Vrezh, sacrifices himself to personally resolve the conflict between revenge and renewal.
The pace of the story and the narrator’s worries immediately build and sustain a high pitch of tension, rising to a surprisingly fast denouement.
The history of the Armenian massacres and the fictional refugee family’s story is revealed with drama and emotion in the opening chapter.
My Name is Revenge helped me to understand the passion driving many young men whose rights and country have been stolen, and the complexities of any international attitude and action on historical events.
Moving detail about the grandfather’s sad days, and the different responses of Vrezh and his older brother, Armen, enliven the history and set the main plot. There is interesting information about Armenian carpets, food and daily life.
This book left me feeling that I would like more. It is fast and punchy, but could the significance of the period and the dramatic events allow for a fuller development?
I’d like to know more about Armen, to understand what conflicts he may have felt and the decisions he made to resolve them. And more about how those who wanted to make a new life – how they experienced the events, the patriotism, the injustices; their focus may be on the confusion, the lives lost, the pain of those left. I wondered about the women; do they helplessly support and nurture their men, no matter what? Are there any women’s movements?
I could see this book as a full novel extending our understanding of the lives of Armenians, both those lost with the loss of their country, but also of the characters I lived with through this stirring story.
My eyes have been opened to the depth of a significant global tragedy, and to its relevance in Australia. This writer, with her talent for engaging writing, background research and passion for the subject has made a great Australian-Armenian novel.