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Book Review: The Dervish

Posted by gck Friday, July 5, 2013

dervishThe Dervish by Frances Kazan

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: *** (out of 5)
Recommended for: people interested in learning more about Turkey and historical events
Received ARC copy through NetGalley.

Book 14 of 52 in the “Around the World” Challenge

Back-cover summary:
The first Arab Spring: revolution and passion seethe and erupt in this action-packed romance during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Kazan's novel takes us intimately behind the veil, to see and experience the Ottoman world, to let us view, from the "other" side, how the cultural and political antagonisms between the Occident and the Orient of the past century look. There are no easy villains or heroes in this story. Only ardent, unforgettable characters. An American war widow seeks emotional asylum with her sister at the American Consulate in Constantinople during the Allied occupation in 1919. Through a cross-stitched pattern of synchronicity Kazan's heroine becomes a vital thread in the fate of Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) and his battle for his country's freedom. Based on firsthand accounts of the Turkish nationalist resistance, The Dervish details the extraordinary events that culminated in 1923 with the creation of the Republic of Turkey.

My review:
The Dervish tells of events leading up to the creation of the Republic of Turkey through the eyes of a Western artist named Mary Di Benedetti. There are a lot of historical details mentioned in the book. Having recently taken an online course on world history, it was interesting to me to see names I recognized from my class appear as characters in this novel. The descriptions of various places in the Ottoman Empire made the setting come alive for me.

Despite this (or perhaps in a way because of it), I didn’t fully connect to the characters and plot. There’s a lot of action and suspense, as Mary is intimately involved in pivotal events and constantly in danger. Some of it had me eager to find out what happened next, but sometimes the pace lagged and I got lost in the details. Mary has love and grief to deal with. I felt like the grief was handled well, but the love could have been left out and the story might have been stronger.


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