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A little gem of a book.

Ali and Nino: A Love Story - Kurban Said

This novel was published in German in 1937, but it was not until 1970 that a chance find resulted in it being republished in English. It represents a rare view into a time long passed, narrated by a youngster who meets the love of his life in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Ali Khan Shirvanshir is a Muslim from the oil rich desert town of Baku and Nino Kipiani is a Christian princess from Georgia. Their paths cross while still in school and Ali Khan is completely besotted. As the first World War approaches, the novel narrates the opinions of the day from an Asian view-point. Georgia is in Europe and Nino's family sees events with a different eye, this is not an acceptable match from their point of view.
Ali Khan is determined, but also very respectful. He treats Nino better than many men of his era treated their women.

I was particularly fascinated by the references to kidnapping with a view to marriage. I had never heard of this practice until a recent visit to Kyrgyzstan, where our guide informed us that it still took place, even now.

Initially Ali Khan resists the move to fight with Russia, he feels this is not his war, but as events bring the battles much closer to home he joins his compatriots in defending Baku.
The ending is both sad and brilliant. An excellent book that I will probably read again in the future.