Last Train to Istanbul

Last Train to Istanbul

Book - 2013
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International bestseller by one of Turkey's most beloved authors

As the daughter of one of Turkey's last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life.

But when the Nazis invade France, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing--not war, not politics, not even religion--can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety. Together, they must traverse a war-torn continent, crossing enemy lines and risking everything in a desperate bid for freedom. From Ankara to Paris, Cairo, and Berlin, Last Train to Istanbul is an uplifting tale of love and adventure from Turkey's beloved bestselling novelist Ayşe Kulin.

Publisher: Las Vegas, NV :, Amazon Crossing,, 2013.
Copyright Date: ©2006
ISBN: 9781477807613
Characteristics: 382 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Baker, John W. (Translator)


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PimaLib_ChristineR Sep 07, 2018

This was a really interesting book. I find I love history when it isn't presented as a history lesson, but is wound in with the lives of characters and Kulin does that masterfully. Throughout the book we learn that after Spain exiled the Jews in 1492, the Ottoman Empire (later Turkey) welcomed them with open arms. Turkey sides with Germany in WWI and pays dearly for it. In the aftermath of WWI, many Turkish Jews move to Paris. Now the next World War has broken out and Turkey is determined to play both sides against the middle until they are forced to play their hand. This story is a combination of the politics in which Turkey is engaged, and the story of Turkish officials and citizens in France trying to save as many Jews, and others hunted by the Gestapo, as they can.

While fiction, this story is based on an amalgamation of true events and that's where it real heart lies. As Vichy France basically hands over the country to the Nazis, the Turkish government works feverishly to save its own citizens and then expands that scope to saving as many people as they can. While it is a drop in the bucket of what happened all over Europe, it is an uplifting story.

One star off: I took a star off for two things. One: we start with the story of Sabiha, whose sister is in Paris and married to a Jewish chemist. There's a lot about Sabiha and how sad she feels, and how her husband doesn't understand her. Basically, it was fluff that the story didn't need and that made it difficult to get into until we got away from her character. Secondly, I don't know if it's the difficulty of translating Turkish, but often the language felt oddly old-fashioned and formal. It wasn't anything I could put my finger on, but I felt it as I read. John Baker was the translator so if anyone has read other translations by him and has thoughts, I'd love to hear about it. Regardless, once this story gets going, it is fascinating historically and for its wonderful characters. I'd highly recommend it.

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