A book review. E et OE
Istanbul Days Istanbul Nights is a book by Leonard Durso. I don’t know if you follow his blog although I know some of you do. You can read more about him on the link.
Any way – the book. I will start by quoting the blurb on the back.
Leonard Durso’s Istanbul Days, Istanbul Nights is a contemporary reimagining of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy, Romeo & Juliet, that takes place in Istanbul. With a cast of characters from across the globe, they struggle to find a way through the trials and tribulations of romantic involvement, hindered by their own unique cultural differences.
Now I’m not experienced in writing book reviews, I’ve only done one before so I’ll just tell you what I think.
The setting is in a University in Istanbul staffed by natives of Turkey and a scattering of ex-pat English and American academics.
The faculties of Theatre Arts and Drama and Film decide to redo Romeo and Juliet but with twists. There will be dance and song as well as straight play acting. You all know about the Montagues and the Capulets – feuding families but in this case one of the two families is from the English class and the other from the Turkish class. But that is only the background to the novel.
The real drama comes from the university staff and students themselves. Each person has his or her own drama to work through.
The chair of the theatre department and his assistant are in love but they won’t admit it and so nothing happens but the tension develops with neither one saying what is truly on their mind.
Phillip, from England, teaches playwriting and has no love interest but is involved in some ways in all. Brenda has left a marriage back in London and is trying to find herself and Murat is trying to find the type of love he thinks he has lost from his wife of twenty years. There is the visiting professor from New York who would willingly start a relationship with anyone but is too inept to succeed. The teacher of Dance who lost many of her family in the Bosnian war has recently lost her husband from a heart attack.
And there are more. You will need to read it yourself.
This was, and still is, one of the most intriguing books I have ever read. And having taught English Literature for more than forty years I can not count how many books I have read.
One the first day I was introduced to all the staff in the college. You can imagine first day at a new school or in a new job with thirty people you need to get to know. I was introduced and before I learned that person’s name someone else was there, then a couple more. Now let’s run over to the dance department and we’ll see who they are.
And then you get home at night after your first day and she asks you how it was and what are they like and do you think you’ll be happy there and you can’t say because it was all too, too much.
And the next day and the next and by the end of the first week you know some of their names and it is good that everyone wears name tags and it is good that the author put a little character description in the front of the book so you can keep going back whenever you get stuck and he even drew up a relationship tree so you know who connects with whom. And you carry this aide memoire until you have got to know everyone’s name.
Now if you think I was a bit strange in my description it is because all this happens just like that.
………..And so Bekir finds himself the only person smiling as the board meeting continues around him.
Michael is staring at the organisational chart on his wall that clearly defines everyone’s role………(p 94.).
What happens here is that we jump in an instant from one character in one room to another character in a room in another building with absolutely no warning. This happens right through the book. In the early stages I felt it a little unsettling but I soon became accustomed. And anyway that is what is happening. All the characters are doing their own thing at the same time as everyone else. It is all so true to life. What isn’t true to life is that sometimes ‘we’ – that is the writer and his companion the reader – can be told what is in someone’s head. But not all the time.
As the story unfolds we start to see, gradually, that everyone is involved in their own private voyage of self discovery. We get to know some better than others as we would in a new work situation. I found myself wanting to talk to the characters and to form a close relationship in a real way. For the first time that I have read any book I felt personally engaged with some of the people. I fell in love with Irem. I knew exactly where Murat was coming from and I wished him well – I’ve been there myself. I knew Katja in another life but she went to Nepal and never came back.
Leonard’s characters are not some fictional people he has manufactured out of the air – they are some of the most real and vibrant and flawed and wonderful people I have met.
And it is tempting to read it as an autobiography but I won’t even try.
It is too hard to say anything else. Except to say that this is the first book I have purchased online from overseas. If you don’t read novels then don’t bother. If you do, then don’t ask for it at the library. Go on line and buy it. You will definitely want to keep it.
Do I have to rate it? Give it so many stars? I can’t. It has just redefined my rating system.