Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday favourite: Portrait of a Turkish Family

It's been a while since I've shared a Friday favourite, but as I sit down with a glass of vino in hand to end the working week (she says while still in her slippers - although out of her PJs at least!), I decided now is as good a time as any!

The one that came to mind this week is Portrait of a Turkish Family, by Irfan Orga. It was about three years ago to the exact date that I added Turkey, in particular Istanbul, to my collection of travel destinations - and it instantly became a favourite. From the Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque, the sights, smells and colours of the bustling markets to the sweet taste of Turkish tea - Istanbul was a city that captured me.

And so too, did this book. An autobiographical account of a young man who grew up in a prosperous Turkish family in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire.

From the back cover: Irfan Orga's mother was a beauty, married at thirteen, who lived in the seclusion of the harem, as befitted a Turkish woman of her class. His grandmother was an eccentric autocrat, determined at all costs to maintain her traditional habits. But the First World War changed everything. Death and financial disaster reigned, the Sultan was overthrown and Turkey became a republic. The family was forced to adapt to an unimaginably impoverished life. In 1942, Irfan Orga arrived in London, and seven years later his wrote this story of his family's survival.

Inside the Blue Mosque
I was entranced by everything that happened to this family, the insight this story gave to this era of Turkish history, and the effect it had on its people. It's by no means a heavy historical autobiography, nor is it a "I did this, then I did this..." kind of read. Instead, the author has kindly opened the door to his family, the tears and heartbreak they endured, the changes they had to make, and the experiences that either killed them or made them stronger.

It is a lovely, gentle story, where the author's love for his family and his country shine through. And I have since fallen in love with Turkey myself. Although yet to return, Istanbul and the many other places that make up this extraordinary country are definitely on my list of places to return too!


  1. You always read the most interesting books! This one sounds like it was fantastic :)

    I actually am hopping by to thank you for completing my mini-challenge with an exclusive-no passing around or making a post about it-award that you can just throw in your pile of awards if you want!! Here's the link for you to grab it: Award.

    Hope to see you back around soon!

    Lah @ Lazy Girl Reads

  2. Wow, this sounds like a good read. Married at 13? Amazing. I'm always fascinated with different cultures. Also, I'd love to see the Blue Mosque, its on my list of places to visit. Thanks for the great review!

    Happy Weekend!

  3. Wow, what a thoughtful review, thanks for sharing! Don't you love when you can just feel the author's love and connection to a place? It makes the book all that much more inspiring :).