Ossyane, a young Lebanese of both aristocratic Ottoman and humble Armenian origins, goes to Montpellier to study away from the burden of his liberal father's revolutionary ambitions. World War II breaks out and Ossyane is drawn into the Resistance where he meets Clara who is Jewish. He returns to Beirut and, despite the obstacles, to a happy marriage with Clara. The Jewish-Muslim couple move to Haifa but, if one war has made a hero out of Ossyane, another, much closer to home, is destined to split him from his wife and separate him from the world and the people that he loves. In this delicate and compassionate novel Amin Maalouf brings the struggles in the Levant in the wake of World War II painfully to life. The tribulations and separations of Ossyane and Clara reflect, at an individual level, the problems that have beset the Middle East for fifty years.