Love in Exile by Ayşe Kulin

exile Love in Exile by Ayşe Kulin

Thank-you to NetGalley and Amazon Crossing for my advanced reading edition of this translated novel. Ayşe Kulin is a contemporary Turkish novelist and this novel is based upon her own family’s history. It has been translated into English by Kenneth Dakan.

Love in Exile tells the story of a Muslim family living in Istanbul in the 1920s. The establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 meant that this was a period of great social and political upheaval for the people of Turkey. I enjoyed reading about the varying perspectives of the changes that were taking place, as each member of the family has a very different outlook. Each one of them has their own unique story to tell and the reader is thrown head first into the midst of them all, which meant for quite a bit of confusion at times. There is a helpful genealogy table at the beginning that I kept referring back to in order to keep everybody’s names straight and to familiarize myself with the relationship between each family member. Nonetheless, there were still times I found myself at a loss as to who exactly an individual was.

One of the female protagonists of the novel, Sabahat, is an intelligent young woman with a strong sense of self. She insists upon pursuing her education through high school and beyond. The reader is made aware that this was unusual for a Muslim girl living in Istanbul in the 1920s and thus the reader cannot help but admire her father for being so progressive and allowing his daughter her education. However, he is still a man of his time and he is devastated to find that his daughter has fallen in love with an Armenian boy. The Turkish-Armenian War is still fresh in many minds and therefore Sabahat and Aram find a lot of opposition to their relationship. Her father is particularly against it as Aram is a Christian and it is unthinkable for Sabahat not to marry another Muslim.

Overall I found this aspect of the story to be the most captivating and I was desperate to see if the relationship between Sabahat and Aram was strong enough to withstand everything that was thrown their way. Unfortunately their story became lost in the middle of so many others and I didn’t receive the closure that I would have liked from their story. In the epilogue the author briefly tells the reader what happened, but I very much would have liked for it to have been a part of the novel itself.

Perhaps Sabahat and Aram’s story takes a step back from being the focal point in order for the author to tell us more about a different couple. Sitare and Muhittin are two people that we follow separately through the pages of this novel until they eventually meet and marry. Sitare is Sabahat’s niece and therefore the two grow up in the same household, along with the rest of their very large family. Muhittin is a Muslim of Bosnian decent. His parents fled Bosnia before the Balkan Wars of 1912/1913 and were therefore spared from being caught up in a period of deep savagery. Muhittin was educated in Istanbul and becomes a very successful civil engineer. We follow both Muhittin and Sitare’s lives until their marriage and the birth of their daughter, Ayşe: the author of this novel. I cannot blame the author for wanting to tell her parents’ story.

Ultimately I did enjoy this novel and I was fascinated by this glimpse into such a compelling era of history. Sadly I spent a fair bit of time confused and had to go back and re-read different parts of the novel to try to understand who a person was or why they were doing what they were doing. I would recommend reading a brief history of the time period before you read, which is something I ended up doing as I was reading in order to give myself a better understanding of the novel itself.

 

 

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel by Alison Weir

Aragon Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is the author of many books pertaining to the Plantagenet and Tudor eras, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve enjoyed all of Weir’s non-fiction books but in my experience her novels are a little hit-and-miss. This novel however was both well-written and informing and I enjoyed reading it. For a full synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads please click here.

Having read many novels of Katherine of Aragon I was pleased to find that Weir’s perspective was one of the best I’ve read so far. She portrays Katherine as a flesh and blood woman, not a saint, nor does she insinuate that Katherine was a stubborn old hag that refused to bow out gracefully. Often Katherine is portrayed as being one or the other and therefore it was refreshing to read about a woman that I could actually relate to.

The reader joins Katherine on her voyage to England to wed Prince Arthur and we stay with her until the bitter end. Her story is a tragic one and yet her dedication to her faith and commitment to the truth allowed her to meet her death with the knowledge that she stayed faithful. Her conduct to the very end is unfailing. This is not to say however that she did not ever complain or feel sorry for herself, of course she did; as any person in her situation would have. The difference is that she had a steely resolve and never allowed herself to waiver in her commitment to her role as the one true queen of Henry VIII.

In my opinion one of the biggest achievements in this novel has to be how Weir brings to life the world of the sixteenth century. For it is truly another world than our own. So many historical fiction authors go wrong in trying to provide a modern slant to a bygone era, allowing modern perspectives to cloud our interpretation of the facts. It is not fair to judge historical figures by the standards of the present day. I believe Weir herself sums it up nicely in her author’s note: “I have tried to show that the past was indeed another country, and that modern preoccupations with women’s rights, feminism, and political correctness had no place in it”.  

I commend Ms. Weir for having succeeded in doing exactly that and I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to be able to dive into the world of Katherine of Aragon. It has given me a new admiration for Katherine and heartfelt sympathy towards her plight. Regardless of whether or not I believe the reformation of the English Church to have been the best thing for the county or not, I can do nothing but look kindly upon Henry VIII’s first queen. She faced her struggles with courage and conviction and was a remarkable woman of her time.

Overall I enjoyed this novel and the fresh perspective that it gave. I absolutely recommend giving it a read if you’re looking for a novel that stays as close to historical fact as possible without boring you to tears.