Cover image for War torn
War torn
Marks, John, 1963-
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Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
310 pages ; 24 cm
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From the author of the gripping Cold War thriller and New York TimesNotable Book The Wallcomes its suspenseful sequel, set in Berlin and the former Yugoslavia. John Marks' first novel, The Wall, a thinking man's thriller, was compared to Graham Greene's espionage novels and, in both its depth and contemporary relevance, to Robert Stone's Damascus Gate. Now, in War Torn, Marks reveals another pivotal moment in history-through the lens of a love affair between an American journalist and a woman from the former Yugoslavia. War Tornbegins in the aftermath of the Cold War in Berlin, where a century of trauma is coming to an end and it is finally possible to speak with confidence about the future. Close by, but worlds away, the nightmare is just beginning in Mostar, where civil war is about to erupt, robbing its citizens of their homeland and obliterating everything they cherish. War Tornis a story of people caught up in war who cannot stop to make sense of it but must fight simply to survive. And of what happens to them when the dust settles, when what counted before-family, loyalty, home-no longer matters, or even exists. John Marks depicts history in the making, and its impact on two lives has implications for us all.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When an assured stylist tells a compelling, morally charged story with political, psychological, and emotional layers, comparisons to Graham Greene are not entirely specious. Marks centers his story on the relationship of Texan journalist Arthur Cape and Yugoslavian Muslim emigre Marta Mehmedovic, thrust together in Berlin in the weeks before the reunification of East and West Germany. Arthur is easygoing, naive, with a vague faith in the future, adrift in a world of unspoken significance. Marta's nascent Western life is uprooted when her husband brings her and her son back to the town of Mostar, where the celebrated old stone bridge is fast becoming the antithesis of the Berlin Wall: an artificial link forcing together deeply divided peoples. Marks' career as a Central European correspondent is evident in his mastery of place and moment, distilling evocative details into vivid zeitgeist snapshots. The tortuous, lost-and-found plot could do with a few less revolutions and a more fully realized conclusion, but, on balance, this is a smart, stylish read for both thriller and general audiences. --David Wright Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This complex, beautifully savage novel is well named, for every character in it is torn between past and present, between the promise of an adoptive country and the pull of a ruined homeland. Former U.S. News Berlin bureau chief Marks (The Wall) posits that the collapse of communism ("the greatest hangover of the twentieth century") in 1989 was but a prelude to yet another European apocalypse ("There was always this bloody shadow, this Bosnia.... The entire world is waiting to turn inside out") and illustrates his thesis in harrowing fashion. Arthur Cape, a Texan journalist working for a flagging American news magazine, is at a Halloween party in Berlin in the mid-1990s when a ghost from his past makes an appearance. George Markovic, an ailing war profiteer who helped Arthur first settle into Berlin at unification, now comes bearing news of Arthur's lost Bosnian love, Marta Mehmedovic, whom Arthur tried to save three years earlier after she followed her husband and son home to Mostar, a bitterly divided city in Bosnia. Galvanized, Arthur immediately plunges into a Balkan free-fire zone full of demons under different flags ("Arthur asked them who they were, and a host of cries rang out. They were Yugoslavs. They had fought the Germans. They had loved Tito. They were Croats, Muslims, Serbs, Jews and Italians. Who cared?"), searching for Marta, who has been trying to salvage the remains of her family, despite her sister's dangerous dalliance with a local warlord. The language here is deliberately biblical, as Marks repeatedly intones the end of history and Augustine's vision ("The division of a city is a form of living death experienced by only a few places on this earth. Mostar and Berlin are such cities.... It is our endless Augustinian sickness, the City of God against the City of Flesh"). Marks's rendering of the period pulls no punches (paramilitaries reign supreme, the U.N. an impotent afterthought), and every principal is wrenched between flickering and insubstantial poles. (Nov. 10) Forecast: Marks's subject is the war in the Balkans, but the general state of chaos he evokes also reflects and illuminates current world events. Like a latter-day Herman Wouk or Irwin Shaw, he writes with unabashed romanticism and passionate intensity, and should attract readers of popular as well as literary fiction. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Appointed to his first staff job as a reporter for Sense magazine, Arthur Cape lands in Berlin just two weeks before German unification. A chance encounter leads him to Marta Mehmedovic and the love of his life. Marta teaches him a thing or two about both Berlin and Yugoslavia, her recently disintegrated homeland, before her husband drags her and their son back to Mostar-a bad move, for soon that city is tragically shattered by partisan fighting. Arthur gets conflicting information-Marta is dead; no, she's alive but her son is dead-before finally heading to Mostar himself to rescue her. Marks (The Wall), a journalist who served as Berlin bureau chief for U.S. News and World Report at the time of unification and also visited Mostar, has written a heartfelt and engrossing narrative that reads like a thriller but carries a great deal more significance. He's excellent at both the heartrending details of individual human tragedy and the larger considerations of what it takes to tear a city apart-and make it whole again. Writing about war can be tricky-is one exploiting human suffering?-but Marks instead illuminates. And he earns the note of hope at the end. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.