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The Silence of Scheherazade

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This book provides a window into what is perhaps one of the twentieth century's lesser known tragedies, the destruction of the ancient city of Smyrna along with its complex cultural mix, another casualty of the Great War. The story is told through a multitude of characters from all segments of this society, one in first person (the title character, a foundling who has chosen silence in life, but tells us her story) and the others in third person. The premise was fantastic, the culture and history fascinating, the writing (in translation) respectable though sometimes a bit over-full of cliches, but overall I struggled with the confusing switches of time period, point of view, and narrative origin (some stories seem to be retold by Scheherezade from stories she has been told; this is one of those books where you will never know quite what is "real" and what is made up). I think some clarifying edits would have strengthened the book and made a better reading experience. But it's worth reading for its unique take on an overlooked place and time.
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A beautiful gripping saga of the small town of Smyrna in Asia Minor. As the great grand-daughter of someone who died in Asia Minor during the 1921 Armenian Holocaust, this book had great personal meaning for me. Some authors who I've read who write details of the horrific violence and difficulties faced by the Greeks and Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire during that time easily get bogged down in the details, confusing the reader (it IS mind-boggling, all the dates, who lived where, when, etc). The story of the silent girl who has lived through horrific times is tenderly told, and through the eyes of Avinesh, Panagiota, and Edith, we get to view an intimate perspective of a little understood time in the early 20th century. I'm grateful that these stories are being told now, especially after President Biden acknowledged the Armenian genocide this past year, validating the experience of so many millions around the world. Highly recommended.
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Really enjoyed this book! It was the first one for me to read by this author and I can't wait to read more! The characters stick with you long after the book is over.
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The Silence of Scheherazade
By: Defne Suman
Translated By: Elizabeth Goksel
✨ Release Date: Sept 19, 2021
384 Pages

September 1905 leading up to 1922, set in the ancient city of Smyrna, this book follows the intertwining fates of a Levantine, a Greek, a Turkish and an Armenian family as their city is torn apart by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
Scheherazade, who is a mute, was born as a result of her wealthy Levantine mother’s affair with a Turkish driving instructor, separated from her mother at birth by an Armenian midwife desperate to pay off her husband’s gambling debts, and then raised by a Greek family after being found during the Great Fire..

WOW. I thoroughly loved this book in it’s entirety!
The start is slow and it took some time to figure out how all the pieces fit together, but then it hits hard.
The complexity of the ensemble of characters provided so much depth with the different points of view. And even with the translation of this book, the imagery is kept intact and portrayed so complexly. I also love the fact that Suman was able to include and dive into so many different cultures without getting wrapped in the politics of it all, but rather put things into a different perspective that people can relate to and apply to their own lives. Be advised though, that this book does include a lot of death, murder, rape, sexual assault, suicide, racism, abuse, and other triggers that might affect some readers.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
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⋆⋆⋆½

Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for allowing me to read this ARC!


Content Warning: death, murder, rape, sexual assault, suicide, racism, abuse, fire. 


Scheherazade is born one dark September night in the city of Smyrna. It's 1905, and her mother, through the haze of an opium fog, is about to bring her into this world; meanwhile, an Indian spy working for the British Empire arrives on Smyrna's shores. What none of them can know at this moment is that the coming years will draw them into a complicated web of deception, love and tragedy with four other families scattered across the city.

What intrigued me most about this book, aside from its beautiful cover, was the fact that the author herself was Turkish. I haven't read many books either in or about Turkey, and it immediately caught my eye. While I wasn't all that familiar with the political machinations going on in the Ottoman Empire at the time, it sounded like it would be an exciting and interesting romp.

The first few chapters are a little slow, but once the story picks up -- well, it really picks up. There is a large ensemble of characters, ranging from the Levantine French Edith Lamarck, Armenian Midwife Meline, to the aforementioned Indian spy Avinash Pillai. As someone who loves large, complex casts of characters, I found it thrilling to jump to so many different points of view. 

Suman does an excellent job of delving into all the different cultures at play in this book, and doesn't get trapped by the pitfalls of portraying one side as righteous or just while the other is nothing but evil. Instead, she creates nuances, allows us to see this world from all perspectives, and because of this black-and-gray worldview, creates realism and authenticity. The historical and political aspects are endlessly fascinating.

I did find the chronology confusing, however. There was a lot of jumping forward and back, with no real clear timeline until a character mentions a year has passed or that we're back in, say, a character's fifteenth year as opposed to their seventeenth. There's also the fact that in spite of what I mentioned above about loving huge casts, it sometimes felt a little too big. There's tons of mildly important side characters to remember, too, and it can be a touch overwhelming! 

I have a feeling, however, that once this has the final touches put on it, it'll become a favorite of many. Suman's writing has depth and complexity, gorgeous turns-of-phrase, and the characters are both lovable and deeply flawed. If you're a lover of historical fiction, and tired of reading about Regency balls or WWII, I highly recommend you pick this up!
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This book Silence of Scheherazade first caught me by its title. This book is from multiple different points of views spanning from around 1905 to later on WW2. Also has the fall of the Ottoman Empire, in it the constant battles. The cultural differences and surprisingly enough Christianity in the middle east which always surprises me. ( I have to stop that)

The different Points of view are Edith, Avinesh, Scheherazade, Katina, and so many more. It time hop in between their lives and its woven in like a tale being told around a campfire. Where you just want to know more about these people what their life is like.

The writing is very unique I'm glad it has a woven story feeling. It is very emotionally rocky time periods. I don't really have around the Ottoman empire books on my shelf so its very refreshing. You have a sense of nostalgia through the characters eyes.

I love the dedication and the constant mention of Scheherazade I wanted to highlight something in my digital arc but couldn't. ( Since it is an ARC) 

I highly recommend this book it was a refreshing read. The Arc was given to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Publish date Sept 19 2021
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Scheherazade herself would have been proud of the tale-spinning talents Suman shows off here. Such a beautifully-written, fast-moving, compelling book. I've recommended it to several others, and look forward to including it in an upcoming round-up of my favorite books of the year.
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I think this book will stay with me for a long time.
The writing was absolutely beautiful. Some sentences I reread some times, just because they were so evocative and descriptive. 

The story follows many different characters in Smyrna at the beginning of the 20th century and isn't told chronologically, which made it a bit difficult to get into in the beginning, But when I started to grasp the characters and the structure of the book a bit more, I absolutely loved it.
It's a part of history that I don't know much about, so this was a very interesting (and sometimes, horrifying) look into the history of Smyrna during that period.
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This is an interesting story that may move some readers a certain points. It starts a little slow but it is pretty engaging overall. The author's talent is on display here, and look forward to her next one. Recommended for historical fiction fans.

I really appreciate the ARC for review.
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This was a captivating, evocative and frightening book about early 20th century Smyrna. I’ve been fascinated by the Great Fire of Smyrna since Jeffery Eugenides’ Middlesex in which the fire serves as the cover for damning sin, and I’m glad to have found another excellent book about this horrific event that should not be allowed to fade from memory. ⁣⁣
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Scheherazade is a mute found by a Turkish family during the Great Fire and whose origins remain quietly unquestioned. Smyrna has vanished, Izmir stands on its ashes, and only the ghosts remember the city of old. Entire neighbourhoods were incinerated, people vanished and names forgotten, and like Scheherazade the city is mute. In her old age, she breaks her silence not to live, but to be able to die. ⁣
⁣
The Smyrna of her past is an enchanting, cosmopolitan city. Scheherazade was a result of her wealthy Levantine mother’s affair with a Turkish driving instructor, separated from her mother at birth by an Armenian midwife desperate to pay off her husband’s gambling debts, and then raised by a Greek family. The book explores the stories of each of these families as they draw closer to that fateful date in 1922, their joys and fates increasingly coloured by the Greco-Turkish war raging on in Asia Minor, and geopolitical manoeuvrings in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. 
⁣⁣
The naivety and innocence of peacetime ⁣⁣stands in chilling contrast to the imminent horror that awaits, the conviction that such atrocities are not just impossible but unimaginable. Whilst this is a book about the richness of one person’s life, it is also about how little control we wield over our own fates - ‘She could not have known that this feeling was a result of events that had been set in motion long ago, years before she was born, and that had been passed to her from another, had seeped into her essence. With a logic that was both simple and limited, she considered cause and effect to be entirely contained within one’s own lifespan and so believed that this fate was the outcome of some deficiency in her character.’
⁣⁣
#TheSilenceofScheherazade #DefneSuman
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Set in the ancient city of Smyrna, this powerful novel follows the intertwining fates of four families as their peaceful city is ripped apart by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
This was a beautiful book! I enjoyed the writing. The story! The characters were amazing!
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Thank you Netgalley for granting me access to this epic novel.

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get into this novel, but 20% in and I couldn't drop this book. The characters are richly developed, the story is so fast paced, and the world building is impeccable.

It's such a satisfying reading experience, I feel so educated and entertained, love it!
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Smyrna, 1905. Multicultured city, full of wonders. Little girl is born to a opium addicted mother. On the same day Indian spy for British Empire comes to the lush city.

Ottoman Empire is slowly falling apart. But in the meantime the reader travels in an entwined stories of four families, from different cultures.

Love, sadness, death, turmoil of decadence, luxury and finally decay and silence of the then cosmopolitan city.

Beautifully written, the reader is entirely engaged in an atmosphere and fascinating characters of the novel.

Magical read.
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anything with Scheherazade in the title is a must for me, because I was absolutely obsessed with The Arabian Nights. So, this book was a lovely read, with lovely prose, and I was very grateful to Netgalley for letting me read this.  I loved the descriptions and the world the author created - it was nice to read a novel set in the Ottoman Empire.
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Fantastic book! Really evocative use of language and place.

All the characters come alive and really feel like you are on the journey with them.
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A really nice read! The writing set up the visuals well and I thought the writing had almost a poetic feel to it. I thought it was hard at first to keep up with all the characters but it wasn't an issue once I got through the first 10-15% of the book. I would definitely recommend this title!
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3.5 stars

Firstly, I think it's written very beautifully, and doesn't lose its beauty with the translation which is great. I enjoyed following this multigenerational and multinational story of many characters. I loved seeing historical events I hadn't had much knowledge about, but I think it could have been a hundred pages shorter and it would be fine. At some point I felt it started getting slow and felt draggy towards the end of the book when the audience had already guessed the connections between characters and there wasn't much point in dragging it.

I neither loved nor hated the chronology of events in the book; however, when I read the last chapter I understood why it had to be last, even though at times it was a little confusing. I didn't love most of characters but I think it was meant to be that way; they were flawed and intricate. Overall, a decently enjoyable book if you're in the mood for a historical fiction set in the 20th century Ottoman Empire.
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With thanks to netgalley for an early copy in return for an honest opinion 
Not read anything  by this author  before all I can say its a beautifully  poignant  and extremely  well presented  book the richness and opulence  is in abundance  I thoroughly enjoyed the  experience.
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“The Silence of Scheherazade '' takes its readers to a city that was once Smyrna in a land that was once the Ottoman Empire. It was a place where Christians, Muslims, Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and many other peoples once lived side by side, neighbor by neighbor, in a rich blend. As much as I liked following the sizable cast of characters through the years and the upheavals, honestly what I enjoyed above all was simply being within the cosmopolitan world that she describes with such wonderfully rich detail (which in turn has been excellently translated by Betsy Göksel). This admittedly makes it all the more wrenching to read on as this very world vanishes in the flames of ethnoreligious and nationalist conflict. 

Author Dufne Suman has created both a beautiful and tragic read that does a wonderful job immersing its readers deep within a long-gone world.
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Book Review for The Silence of Scheherazade
Full review for this title will be posted at: @cattleboobooks on Instagram!
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