Tuesday, August 26, 2008


If the real Turkey is anything like the Turkey in books and movies, I must be insane to be moving there. (In other words, watching Midnight Express was not my most brilliant idea.)

Author Maureen Freely grew up as an ex-pat in Istanbul and sets her latest book, Enlightenment, there. Freely has an intimate view of the city, but the book’s setup is convoluted in the extreme.

“M,” the narrator, is an American who also grows up in Istanbul. During high school, she falls in love with the son of a Turkish diplomat, Sinan. After M moves back to the U.S., Sinan dumps her for another ex-pat, Jeannie.

Fast forward thirty-plus years. Jeannie contacts M, a journalist, after Sinan is arrested by Homeland Security in the United States for terrorist activities. And that’s just the beginning. The narrative revolves around spies, revolutionaries, murder, and terrorism, among other things.

Enlightenment is well written and fascinating, but I ended up plodding through it because the story simply makes my brain ache. M skirts around issues. She is vague and deliberately obtuse. She hints but never fully reveals. And I find this manner of storytelling frustrating, disingenuous, and just plain mind-numbing.

That being said, Enlightenment is an intriguing, though frustrating, mystery. Freely gives a captivating glimpse into an unstable Istanbul and the lives of the nefarious ex-pat community (if she’s to be believed, the U.S. is to blame for many of the country’s problems). This book is excellent for anyone with a lot of patience and a desire to be dragged willy-nilly without any satisfactory payoff.

1 comment:

moonrat said...

haha so true. but i loved this book, tons. it made me really want to go to istanbul.