May 30, 2009

Take Me Away To Turkey

Take Me Away

Take Me Away is a new feature I am trying out for Saturdays. As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, I thought this was a good way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I will feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Last week we visited Chile. This week we are visiting the country of Turkey in the Middle East. Click on the titles to go to the book's page on to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Here is an easy to see map of Turkey:
To learn more about the country of Turkey, click here.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk
A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in this enigmatically beautiful novel. Ka's reasons for visiting the small Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with "the beautiful Ipek," whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists (including Ipek's spirited sister Kadife) and Ka finds himself making compromises with all in a desperate play for his own happiness. Ka encounters government officials, idealistic students, leftist theater groups and the charismatic and perhaps terroristic Blue while trying to convince Ipek to return to Germany with him; each conversation pits warring ideologies against each other and against Ka's own weary melancholy. Pamuk himself becomes an important character, as he describes his attempts to piece together "what really happened" in the few days his friend Ka spent in Kars, during which snow cuts off the town from the rest of the world and a bloody coup from an unexpected source hurtles toward a startling climax. Pamuk's sometimes exhaustive conversations and descriptions create a stark picture of a too-little-known part of the world, where politics, religion and even happiness can seem alternately all-consuming and irrelevant. A detached tone and some dogmatic abstractions make for tough reading, but Ka's rediscovery of God and poetry in a desolate place makes the novel's sadness profound and moving.

Less Than a Shadow by David Chacko
When Alfred Rydell, a American journalist, is murdered in his Istanbul apartment, Inspector Onur Levent is ordered to find the killer quickly for the sake of Turkish-American relations. But Rydell's family has political clout. Thus Jason Ender with the U.S. State Department is rushed to Istanbul to find the answers demanded. When Ender meets Levent, the expected clash of culture, methods, and objectives doesn't happen. Instead their professionalism allows them to combine their resources and move on quickly. Neither man believes there was a simple motive behind Rydell's death. As they probe ever more deeply, the scope of their investigation suddenly expands into a desperate search for terrorists. Time passes too swiftly as Ender and Levent race to thwart the terrorist plan intended to collapse the economy and government of Turkey, the only democracy in the Middle East. And thus to bring chaos to the entire region.

The Virgin's Knot by Holly Payne
(one of my favorite books!)
Payne's debut novel is a beautifully written and evocative fable set in 1950s Turkey. Nurdane, a rug weaver of mystical power, is stricken with polio as a child, and is unable to walk without aid. Nurdane's gift for weaving becomes her sole focus, and her rugs become legendary. The people of her village believe that her rugs are imbued with magic that heals the sick and ensures the birth of male children, and thus Nurdane's creations become the highest prize in any woman's dowry. But she yearns for more from her life, and begins to realize that there is more she must do. Between the schemes of her father, the desires of the man who loves her, and the interest of an anthropologist on a quest to uncover the Goddess, Nurdane sees a way to fulfill her deepest desire. Payne has conjured an entrancing blend of myth, history, and religious feminism that results in a tale as compelling as it is elusive.

Complicated Favors: A Turkish Affair by Jeanne Reeder
While on vacation in Turkey, two friends unwittingly become entangled in a web of international terrorism. One, a forensic behavioral analyst for the CIA, is forced to cross a dangerous line from tourist to intelligence operative as she decides to work with an undercover Kurdish military team led by a Turkish spy. The mission takes the special operations team into southeastern Turkey's beautiful, rugged and vast Sat-Cilo mountains, where they enter a foreign world of intrigue and a surprising and exotic land of romance.

Seraglio: A Novel by Janet Wallach
Wallach builds her first novel around the abduction of a young French girl--a cousin of Napoleon's wife Josephine--at the end of the seventeenth century and her sale into the sultan of Turkey's seraglio. Aimee du Buc de Rivery was only 13 when her ship was captured by pirates and she was taken to the seraglio. Renamed Nakshidil, she is befriended by the eunuch Tulip, but she fights against her enslavement and the rules of the seraglio. As she adapts to her new life, she catches the eye of the old sultan. But it is Selim, the sultan who succeeds him, who captures her heart. She becomes his lover and his confidante, sharing with him the books and knowledge of the West. It is through her adoptive son, Mahmud, who eventually becomes sultan, that Nakshidil gains true power and influence when she is named valide sultan, the second-most powerful position in the empire. A lush, rich tale of a clever woman and her loyal friend who navigate a world full of treacherous politics and ruthless enemies.

A Fire in My Heart: Kurdish Tales (World Folklore Series) by Diane Edgecomb
(The Kurdish Culture)
A labor of love and a magnificent achievement, this collection of tales, legends, recipes, games and history takes readers vividly into the traditional village life of the Kurds, a little-known and politically beleaguered ethnic group whose homeland straddles the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Supported partly by grants (including one from NSN), Edgecomb traveled into Turkish Kurdistan, collecting stories from villagers whose language itself had been banned. The resulting book brings lively and unusual stories to light, presenting 33 tales representing all regions of Kurdistan and the four main Kurdish dialects--from the Kurdish Cinderella story "Fatima" to animal stories and stories based on legendary figures (e.g., Rusteme Zal, the Kurdish Hercules)--organized by tale type.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you know of some books that take place in Turkey that you want to share? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

create your own visited country map


  1. What a great idea for a Saturday post! I'm always interested in the geography of the novels I read. The books you've listed sound wonderful. I'm fascinated with the Islamic culture and it's effects on other parts of the world, so I'll be looking for some of these books next time I'm at the library. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. The Virgin's Knot sounds really good. I love! the map feature. Great post again.

  3. I also REALLY loved The Virgin's Knot. I tracked it down in hardback to keep in my personal collection. I also just purchased a book that I saw through a LitChat conversation about expat authors this week (through @Thandelike). The book was: Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey, and I can't wait to read some of the tales in it!

    Thanks for this post. I love this idea.

  4. There was a non-fiction, memoir book I read about Turkey a few years ago, but I can't remember the title for the life of me. Sorry. There was also a romance novel that took place in Turkey in early nineteenth century by Loretta Chase--it was actually really good.

  5. I like the sound of some of those books. Turkey is a place I would love to travel to one day.

  6. I've wanted to read Snow! I would love to visit Turkey someday, but for now I'll have to settle for visiting through books!!

  7. I like your concept! I'll look forward to seeing your world map fill up.

    I have "The Bastard of Istanbul" by Elif Shafak in my TBR pile--the book clerk said "oh, that book was so good!" so it is near the top of books to be read.

  8. What a fabulous idea, I shall enjoy visiting every Saturday. I have never heard of any of these books, but they look really good. It is nice to get a glimpse at books from other countries.

  9. What a gorgeous selection of books - I'm adding Snow, The Virgin's Knot and Complicated Favours to my wish list 0:)


Thank you for visiting! Leave a comment and share your thoughts with me!