Fiction Book Reviews

Historical Fiction | Only the Dead | T J Gorton

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We’re delighted to be sharing Alice-Jane’s thoughts today for Only the Dead by T J Gorton.

Only the Dead is part adventure story and part exploration of the moral complexities arising from war, brutality and the desire for revenge.

Book cover Only the Dead by T J Gorton

As old Vartan sits reading mystical Persian poetry amongst the dust and disintegration of war-torn Beirut, the fluted pillars of his decaying house wreathed in shadows, his thoughts wander back, inevitably, to another conflict, many years before…

Only the Dead is the story of Vartan Nakashian, a young Armenian from Aleppo caught in the midst of a world war that is proving catastrophic for his people. We follow his journey of love, espionage, tragedy, betrayal and revenge across the tumultuous Levant of 1915–18, as the crucible of war and genocide makes a man of the boy we first encountered. Now advanced in years, Vartan ruminates on life, loss, guilt and the many adventures and horrors of his youth, seeing them mirrored in the fresh catastrophe of the Lebanese Civil War.

This story – based in part on a real man, a true story – is about the struggle to reconcile conflicting loyalties and affections, the desire for revenge, the search for atonement and poetry’s power to make sense of the human condition.

Only the Dead by T J Gorton is published by Quartet Books.


A very poignant and thought provoking tale of the torn world of the Levantine during the Great War. 

Gorton describes protagonist Vartan’s transition into a young man through the efforts and ordeals he suffers for his beliefs and needs for his people. The tragedy that Gorton relates is not only that the people suffer to their person but also the destruction of their culture. This eradication of a way of life filled with poetry is something Vartan has deep respect for desperately wishes to protect.

An extremely heart wrenching and pensive tale! A thoroughly good read! 

Alice-Jane guest reviewer on Jera's Jamboree

Author photo T J Gorton

T.J. Gorton studied Arabic in Beirut and Oxford before his first job as lecturer in Arabic Studies at St Andrews. He went on to live for many years in the Middle East and Arabia and has written or edited six other books about the region. He lives with his Lebanese archaeologist wife between London and South West France.

Connect with T J Gorton


I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 9+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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