Friday, 8 September 2017

Book Review- Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin

It’s easy to distinguish a good book from the “not-very-good” ones. The latter is forgotten sooner or later, but a good story written lovingly stays for you for a long time, almost forever. You may forget the names of the characters, the story line may fade after some time but the warmth it created when you read it, always…always stays. Last Train to Istanbul was one of the finest books I have read in a long time. 

Selva and Sabiha are daughters of a respectable retired diplomat Fazil Resat Pasa and live comfortably in Istanbul. They are raised liberally and educated to have independent opinions. Sabiha, the elder one traditionally marries Macit, another diplomat who holds an important position in the government and spends more time making decisions for the country than at home. Selva, the younger one is rebellious and marries Rafael, a Jewish non-Muslim. This is apparently not-acceptable to their parents and they leave Turkey and settle in France to avoid embarrassment for both the families. While Sabiha struggled with her husband’s prolonged absence from home, Selva found bliss in her meagre means with the love of her life. That was until the Nazis started occupying France and Jews started living under the imminent danger of being sent to camps of Gestapo. 

Sisters may be miles apart but they never cease to care for each other. Sabiha requests their family friend, Tarik, to help Selva get out of France when he is sent to Turkish Consulate in Paris. Tarik gets Selva, Rafael and their son along with a couple of dozen other people with Turkish passports on a train to Istanbul. This train is their last hope of escape from the hands of Nazi Gestapo. Except that this train is supposed to pass through Germany and many other war countries before reaching its final destination. Imagine, a train full of Jews passing through Germany.

There is absolutely nothing that I didn’t like about this book. The plot, which is generously inspired from true events, is absolutely great. The writing is seamless and with just the right amount of ups and downs. The characters are so vivid that you think you personally know a Selva or Sabiha or Tarik. The emotional conflicts between these characters seem very real. The struggle of survival can make a person selfish and one may also be forgiven for this. But there are people who do not hesitate to help even when it poses danger to their lives. The story is strewn with such small incidents which instill your faith in humanity.

You will be missing a great read if you do not read this in your life-time.

My rating: 

About the author: Ayşe Kulin is a Turkish contemporary novelist and columnist.Kulin graduated in literature from the American College for Girls in Arnavutköy. She released a collection of short stories titled Güneşe Dön Yüzünü in 1984. A short story from this called Gülizar was made into a film titled Kırık Bebek in 1986, for which she won a screenplay award from the Turkish culture ministry. Kulin worked as a screen writer, cinematographer and producer for many films, television series and advertisements. In 1986, she won the Best Cinematographer Award from the Theatre Writers association for her work in the television series Ayaşlı ve Kiracıları. In 1996, she wrote a biography of Münir Nureddin Selçuk titled Bir Tatlı Huzur. With a short story called Foto Sabah Resimleri she won the Haldun Taner Short Story Award the same year and the Sait Faik Story Prize the next year. In 1997, she was chosen as the "Writer of the year" by the İstanbul Communication Faculty for her biographical novel Adı Aylin, She won the same award the next year for her short story Geniş Zamanlar. In November 1999, she wrote a novel called Sevdalinka about the Bosnian Civil War and in 2000, a biographical novel called Füreyya. In June 2001, she put out a novel titled Köprü about drama in Turkey's eastern provinces and how they shaped the republic's early history.
In May 2002, Kulin wrote a novel titled Nefes Nefes'e about the Turkish diplomats who saved in the lives of Jews during the holocaust in World War 2.She has married twice, her latest novels Hayat and Huzun describe her life with her spouses, Mehmet Sarper and Eren Kemahli. Both ended in divorce but she bore 4 sons from the marriages. (Source: Goodreads)

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