Kirkus Star


Travels Through a Lost Empire
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A journalist born to a Turkish mother and British father engagingly weaves together personal odyssey with Ottoman and contemporary history.

In her second book, Scott (Turkish Awakening: Behind the Scenes of Modern Turkey, 2015), who has reported from Turkey for a variety of publications, including the Financial Times, delivers an ambitious travel memoir/history, tracing the footsteps of "descendants of ancient minorities that were allowed to flourish in the empire, and [were] then intimidated, ignored or expelled from modern Turkey." The author grounds her thoroughly researched narrative in history and past travel accounts, and she injects it with earnest, wry observations and personal interviews with the many interesting people she met along the way. Besides Turkey, the dizzying tour covers Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, the Balkans, and the Levant. Threaded throughout the tale are intriguing historical details; at the same time, Scott shows the significance of the past to the present, especially how historical sites from the Ottoman past are often appropriated to support modern tribalism. As the author writes, Mehmed Paša Sokolovi? Bridge over the Drina River, built in 1577, has become “a perverse symbol of retribution of Christians against Muslims supposedly righting the wrongs perpetuated against their Ottoman subject forefathers hundreds of years ago.” Scott also pinpoints little-known historical injustices—e.g., in 1989, Bulgarian-born Turks were deported from Bulgaria but could not integrate because they spoke Ottoman, rather than modern, Turkish. As the author ably demonstrates, shared language is an important legacy of the lost empire. As George Hintlian, an Armenian scholar from Jerusalem, says, “if you speak the language, you can’t hate the people.” The author also includes a timeline divided by country.

In her quest to understand her complicated, tense childhood, Scott treats us to a lively grand tour of the lost Ottoman Empire and shows how contemporary leaders exploit simplified versions of history to support nationalist agendas.

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64313-075-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Pegasus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2019


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