March 07, 2011

Book review: ‘The Oracle of Stamboul’

Poised majestically on the shores of the Bosporus, it is not always easy to convey the infallible elegance of İstanbul. Yet Michael David Lukas manages to do just that with his enchanting literary debut, “The Oracle of Stamboul,” painting a surprisingly original vision of a city that has inspired centuries of evocative prose.


Set in the tumultuous twilight period of the Ottoman Empire, readers are ushered back to the year 1877 and the Black Sea port of Constanta, where, overshadowed by the death of her mother, the birth of Eleonora Cohen is attended to by the impromptu arrival of two Tartar midwives summoned by a mysterious prophecy -- “They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon.”

A book that could be read in one sitting, spine-tingling descriptions will transport readers to another place and time -- “summer slipped into Stamboul under the cover of a midday shower. It took up residence near the foundation of the Galata Bridge and drifted through the city like a stray dog” -- literary escapism at its very best.

A charming tale of passion and intrigue, the balance struck is one of accessibility coupled with inspired artistry. The end comes all too soon, but Lukas is undoubtedly a writer to watch, if this thoughtful, eloquent debut is anything to go by.

Read more on Today's Zaman: Book review: ‘The Oracle of Stamboul’

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