46. ‘The Dervish’ by Frances Kazan

The Book:

[CONTAINS SPOILERS]

I thought it was very interesting to read ‘The Dervish’, having only recently finished ‘Samarkand‘, because the two stories are very similar. Both deal with uprising and revolution in the Middle East, and both feature – as their central character – an outsider, who travels to the country and becomes directly involved in the unrest.

In this book, it is a woman called Mary who narrates the story. Following the death of her husband in the First World War, she travels to Istanbul to live with her sister and her sister’s husband. One night, whilst walking alone through the city, a strange man thrusts some secret papers into her hands and, moments later, he is shot and killed. Through these papers, Mary finds herself embroiled in an underworld that is planning revolution.

Mary’s primary Turkish friend is called Halide. She takes Mary under her wing and they end up on the run together. During her time with the revolutionaries, Mary also meets and falls in love with Mustafa, who plans and fights for the uprising.

There was a lot to like about this book: it’s fast-paced, exciting and genuinely moving. I loved the relationship between Mary and Mustafa, and how she found herself, for a second time, in the agonising position of loving a man who is destined to go to war for his country. I also liked Mary’s sister, and her determination not to have a baby in a turbulent war zone.

But, of course, some things did wind me up. Mary does a lot of stumbling and head-reeling when she’s in shock, which could be more to do with the style of the times than the writing (very often, in literature set in this era, women are taken ill, or faint, with shock). There are instances of “prayer” and “Burnham’s absence” being palpable, or “imprinted on the air” which is fine once or twice, but gets a bit trite when used too often. Also, there’s the sex scene, in which Mary HAS MALARIA and IS CONTAGIOUS but still makes love to Mustafa. Blimey.

I think this is a solidly written book, but it isn’t hugely inspiring stylistically. For a similar but better story, I would recommend ‘Samarkand’.

“When Burnham died my life shattered into a thousand pieces, like a mirror dashed against a marble floor. Time passed, my life slowly came back together, but the fragmented glass had been rearranged, and the reflected image remained distorted. Gazing at myself, I wondered what had become of the woman I one knew.”

The Background:

This is another one from the lovely people at NetGalley. It’s due to be published, I believe, on 19th February 2013.


If you enjoyed my review, why not buy the book and let me know what you think?

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