Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, and Eleonora Cohen is ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. “They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch.” But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora’s mother dies soon after the birth.
Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy.
When Yakob sets off by boat for Stamboul on business, eight-year-old Eleonora, unable to bear the separation, stows away in one of his trunks. On the shores of the Bosporus, in the house of her father’s business partner, Moncef Bey, a new life awaits. Books, backgammon, beautiful dresses and shoes, markets swarming with color and life—the imperial capital overflows with elegance, and mystery. For in the narrow streets of Stamboul—a city at the crossroads of the world—intrigue and gossip are currency, and people are not always what they seem. Eleonora’s tutor, an American minister and educator, may be a spy. The kindly though elusive Moncef Bey has a past history of secret societies and political maneuvering. And what is to be made of the eccentric, charming Sultan Abdulhamid II himself, beleaguered by friend and foe alike as his unwieldy, multiethnic empire crumbles?
I do not normally give the synopsis you can read on line word for word like that, but I thought it was written so well and covered the basics of the book that I knew I could not do it justice trying to write my own. And oh a little historical fiction fix! Just what I needed! 😀 As if the beautiful packaging this book arrived in wasn’t enough – I need not worry, the beauty of this book was not only package deep – but deep within the words themselves came beauty.
Breathtaking and imaginative.. visually fulfilling… the descriptions of the time the place… and even Eleonora. Eleonora is not like the other children, brilliant in mind, logic, and figuring out facts, she is something to be marveled at and feared as she is different and there is no hiding her abilities. I enjoyed getting to know this character and how the story vined around her.
This book brought forth memories of wonderful stories from my child hood, there was something about the descriptive pages that brought images to mind much as I think I would remember them as a child – big and powerful and oh so real. I can not recall a book even bringing memories like these out of me before this one.
I felt for most of the book I was in the story and I held on tight as though putting it down would break the charm… always a fan of unique writing that breaks out of the traditional cookie cutter book molds, I have to say I enjoyed this book thoroughly. While the ending was not quite as strong as I would have hoped and imagined it would be after being carried through the majority of the pages as though I was on a magic carpet ride – I still am left feeling a sense of….
I am excited to see that this author, Michael David Lucas comes up with next.
Here are a few others that are posting their thoughts on this book on the tour:
Wednesday, March 2nd: Simply Stacie
Thursday, March 3rd: Janet Boyer Blog
Friday, March 4th: Kelly’s Lucky You!
Tuesday, March 8th: Coffee and a Book Chick
Wednesday, March 9th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, March 9th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
I have updated the 2011 WHERE Are You Reading to include The Oracle of Stamboul
I received this book for review as part of the TLC Blog Tour