ENLIGHTENMENT by Maureen Freely


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A complex novel juxtaposes youthful allegiances and political machinations in Turkey.

U.S.-born, U.K.-based translator Freely (The Other Rebecca, 2000, etc.) tackles weighty themes in her long, dark, spiraling story. Her American narrator, journalist M, spent her childhood in Istanbul and fell in love with American-born Sinan, but he rejected her in favor of another American girl, Jeannie, the daughter of an American spy. It’s the early 1970s and Sinan is involved with a group that comes to be labeled a Maoist cell, its members accused of murder. Decades later, Sinan and Jeannie marry and have a child. But in 2005, while entering the United States with their five-year-old son, Sinan is arrested and sent to Guantánamo, and the child is put into foster care. Jeannie, ignorant of M’s past involvement with Sinan, asks her to write an article to publicize their plight; then Jeannie disappears too. M finds herself reconstructing Jeannie’s story while forced to consider how it connects with her own. The novel endlessly revisits an inner circle of characters and repeatedly reinterprets the events, against a background of murky layers of political villainy. Despite its thriller-like components, this is a dense, shadowy and serious work concerned with dirty wars, the plight of Turkey, the pursuit of U.S. strategic interest and the possible existence of a “deep state.”

Conspiracy theory, nationhood and relationships collide, often obscurely, in a multilayered and earnest, if oddly remote, tale.

Pub Date: May 20th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59020-074-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2008


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