I’ve always been an avid reader and it’s a real treat for me to become immersed in a good book. A holiday means at least a couple of good reads and part of the enjoyment is deciding which books to take with me – one of which should preferably be set in the destination I’m travelling to. In September we were off to Turkey and I decided to ask my Twitter friends for their recommendations.
@BrowsingAtlas aka Julie Wetz suggested Alan Drew’s Gardens of Water – how could I not read this book after her last tweet!
Set near Istanbul after the catastrophic 1999 earthquake two families of diverse nationality and faith are linked forever. Sinan, a devout Kurdish Muslim, his wife Nilüfer, teenage daughter Irem, and favoured son Ismail live in an apartment below an American family; father Marcus, teenage son Dylan, and Marcus’ wife who dies saving Ismail’s life in the earthquake. When the Americans, led by Marcus, set up a refugee camp for those affected by the quake, Sinan and his family reluctantly join the camp when they can no longer survive on the streets. The situation allows for a growing relationship between Irem and Dylan that has devastating consequences for both families.
Sinan often visits the city, the descriptions of which helped me see Istanbul from an insider’s perspective. He takes Ismail to the holiest of mosques as part of his ‘coming of age’ and whilst teaching his son how to pray they become distracted by noisy tourists visiting the mosque. This scene is described so vividly that it left a lasting impression. When I visited the working Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque I was very aware of the behaviour of certain tourists and was able to see the mosque not only as a visitor but partly through Sinan’s eyes too.
One of the books many themes is the clash of faith and culture between the Kurdish and the American families. Istanbul is the ideal setting; a city that spans two continents – Europe and Asia – and where the Muslim world meets Christianity. The Hagia Sophia mosque echoes this; built originally as a church, then used as a mosque – it’s now a museum and displays relics from both religions.
The imposing Bosphorus Bridge was the setting for a defining scene in the novel - I’ll not tell you why in case you decide to read it. When I saw the bridge from the water during a boat trip the size, height and expanse of it made a huge impact on me given the devastating scene played out around it.
Gardens of Water added many layers to my stay in Istanbul giving me a deeper insight into the city, its faiths, cultures and recent history. I feel through reading the book I gained more of an understanding about everyday life, especially those of women, living in and around Istanbul. Both the book and the city will stay with me a long while yet…
Theworks.co.uk is celebrating the film release of Kerouac’s legendary ‘On the Road’ by asking book-loving travel bloggers to share their travel reading experiences. Thank you to Richard from ‘A Bit of Culture’ for my nomination. Do have a read of his fab ‘Train Spotting’ entry.
My nominations are to Meg from Meg Travels, Alisa from Eat, Travel, Photograph and Simon at Ships Cooks Stuff. I’m looking forward to reading your entries. The competition is open to anyone and for details on how to enter see the competition page: www.theworks.co.uk/travelbloggercomp