Cover Image: The Silence of Scheherazade

The Silence of Scheherazade

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Member Reviews

Suman tells the story of Smyrna and its eventual tragic fate through the lives of daughters and the choices made for and by them and the resulting impact on their relationships and lives. The scandalous secret of our narrator's origins was an attractive lure in the first third of the book, but the incessant teasing of it as you progressed wore off quickly.

Against a rich cultural backdrop, a spy comes to Bournabat to amass information on any group or movement that could sway the toppling of the sultanate or impede the institution of a government.

She traces the privilege and lifestyle of the rich and the culture within the working communities, framing the distinct ways in which war and occupation affects the lives within a city.

As Smyrna approaches it's new fate, the outbreak of violence against the Turkish Muslim inhabitants seems to stun the populace, as they have lived peacefully together in communities for decades. Changing tides of power brings terror and unleashes hate.

The time transitions were not linear and made the reading experience a bit difficult as the back and forth between characters before and after the Great Fire could have benefited from smoother shifts. I do feel as if this could have been trimmed down a bit though as it almost became a chore to continue reading as I soon stopped caring about the characters.
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This is a tentative review - I really adored the writing style of this book, and was captivated by the way that the setting was presented. However, I got to about 50% of the way through without a clear understanding of how the plots went together, how characters were related and what the actual point of the book was!

This may simply be a lyrically woven tale which went slightly over my head at the time of reading, so I'm absolutely not saying it's not a good book, but it's just not working for me right now.
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Thanks you NetGalley for an advanced copy. I didn’t get into this novel. It was confusing with so many characters, points of view, and time changes. The writing style is vivid, and perhaps I would have finished if it were a little more straightforward. I have heard about the graphic scenes and flags, so I decided this isn’t something I can recommend for the classroom library.
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This sounded intriguing from the synopsis but unfortunately it just ended up being OK for me. It was a bit of a slog to get through at times although the  writing was really strong.
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This is really an epic historical fiction tale that took me to a very far off land where I ended up learning as I got swept up in the drama as it unfolded.  

I don't even know where to start with this story.  This felt like a puzzle (I love puzzles) that had so many different pieces that covered vastly different experiences and when finally all put together made the most exquisite scene.  

Four diverse families with overlapping ties in Smyrna in the aftermath of the first World War are making their way in the changing landscape that ultimately must crumble before it can be reborn.  This sentence sounds ridiculously boring for the stories that it contains.  There is love, betrayal, courage, sacrifice, beauty, death and madness.  And much rebirth.  Scheherazade is the central narrator and her story is dramatic and intense and feels like the palm of the hand to the fingers of the other stories told; all of them critical to share the entire tale.

As much as I ended up loving the story, it was hard to keep up with at first.  There were so many characters and the time line changed without clarification, so it took me a while to put it all together.  My difficulty may be mine alone, as I often read multiple books at a time, and this one really did require my full attention.  If I could go back, I would start this after finishing others and not pick up another book until this one was finished.  By the end I was entirely enthralled.

I found the characters so fascinating.  Greek, Turkish, Armenian, and Levantine (European decent people living in the eastern Mediterranean) cultures who had been previously living harmoniously together suddenly identified as enemies because of a nationalist atmosphere was both a glimpse into the past, but also felt very current.  This was a piece of history that is mostly unknown to me, so to learn about it through story was deeply moving and makes me want to explore it further.  

I really appreciated the dictionary in the back for all the French, Greek, and Turkish words and phrases.  Most were pretty clear in usage, but it was helpful to know for sure.  

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this digital ARC.  My opinions are my own, and if you enjoy historical fiction, epic tales, and gorgeous narratives, please pick this book up.
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I struggled to get on with this one. The lightness of the language style clashed with the depth of the story it was trying to tell and it made for a jarring read.
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A sumptous and comprehensive story told from multiple viewpoints pivoted around the terrible fire in Smyrna in 1922..

The lives and the stories of the characters are delicately drawn and there is great empathy and understanding on all sides of a messy and horrific conflict. 

The images and characters are haunting symbols of the pain of conflict and the comforts of ordinary lives.
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I love Turkish authors and I was more than happy to read this book.
It was a great reading experience as the style of writing is luscious and makes you feel like you were living with the characters.
The characters are excellent, fascinating and the descriptions of Smyrna are memorable.
I hope to read other books by this excellent author soon as I loved the storytelling.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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This was a good read! The prose is a little stilted at time but I assume that to be a function of the fact that it’s translated. The story itself is gripping
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Read if you like: historical fiction from multiple perspectives, literary writing.
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This book takes place in the city of Smyrna before, during, and after the First World War. We get to see the vast changes that come with the fall of the Ottoman Empire through the perspectives of Levantine, Greek, Turkish, and Armenian families., which provided a rich multitude of experiences.
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I thought the writing was beautiful and I love how the author was able to weave the past and present together and kept us trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened.
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CW: death, fire, sexual harassment and assault, buried alive, adultery, war burning, illness.
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Thank you NetGalley for a chance to read and review this!

I've heard really good things about this, but this was just not my thing. It's a really slow burn and I got bored and confused by all the characters.
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I was drawn to this because I adore Hala Alyan and Elif Shafak and the overall vibes of secrets and wartime and the ever present draw and influence of culture and familial ways really reminded me of their novels. after reading, i maintain that those comparisons prevail, as there was a lot about this i really loved. what a really great, well-crafted piece of historical fiction. it felt so well-researched, which is a must for me when it comes to historical fiction. the cast of characters was so interesting. it was beautifully written, full of lush descriptions. i love a good, sad book and this really hit the spot for me.
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This book, The Silence Of Scheherazade, is (so far), one of my favourite reads for 2021. I could not put down this story about the ancient city of Smyrna, an historical fiction novel by author Defne Suman (herself from Istanbul). The book is LONG (but absolutely fantastic) so I am keeping this review short and sweet.

In this ancient city in Asia Minor, in the early 20th century, people of different religions and backgrounds cohabitated for centuries. But when the book begins, in 1905, the struggles of the Ottoman Empire are very slowly beginning  to permeate into the lives of the people who live in Smyrna. The author follows 4 women of differing faiths, (and their families), over the course of seventeen years. But it is Scheherazade who unites them all. I fell in love with Scheherazade. Her story is told piecemeal. Be patient because it takes time to begin to understand the intricate web Suman weaves to create this story. But, (at least IMO),  it is truly worth sticking with it.

Thank you #netgalley and @headofzeus books for my complimentary copy, in return for my honest review.
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Suman tells the story of Smyrna and its eventual tragic fate through the lives of daughters and the choices made for and by them and the resulting impact on their relationships and lives. The scandalous secret of our narrator's origins was an attractive lure in the first third of the book, but the incessant teasing of it as you progressed wore off quickly.

Against a rich cultural backdrop, a spy comes to Bournabat to amass information on any group or movement that could sway the toppling of the sultanate or impede the institution of a government.

She traces the privilege and lifestyle of the rich and the culture within the working communities, framing the distinct ways in which war and occupation affects the lives within a city.

As Smyrna approaches it's new fate, the outbreak of violence against the Turkish Muslim inhabitants seems to stun the populace, as they have lived peacefully together in communities for decades. Changing tides of power brings terror and unleashes hate.

The time transitions were not linear and made the reading experience a bit difficult as the back and forth between characters before and after the Great Fire could have benefited from smoother shifts. I do feel as if this could have been trimmed down a bit though as it almost became a chore to continue reading as I soon stopped caring about the characters.
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DNF at 30%. 

I really hate DNF-ing book but in this case I must. Reading this is literally draining me. I've been reading for 4 days and I am barely at 30%, I cannot go on like this. I feel I am swimming in a ocean full of litter that's preventing me to see the wildlife. There's an abundance of details and names that is in no way enriching the story(in fact I am still not sure what the story is *eye roll*). The point of view keeps changing from Edith to her mom to Scheherazade to another girl, adding to my overall confusion.

It is a shame as from the synopsis this should have been a great novel, atmospheric and full of life, presenting the reader a totally new world(well an old world, but new as in unknown), almost a mythical one!

Many thanks for the opportunity to read this!
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I liked the plot and the way the story unfolded. Sometimes it did feel a little too ambitious to me but I guess that's just the cynic in me!
The writing is great for the most part but does falter in places. I didn't like the way the perspective kept shifting. it was hard to stay focused but a good read if you're down for an immersive book.
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3.5/5.
The Silence of Scheherazade is set in Smyrna (now known as Izmir) and weaves together the lives of various characters leading up to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The first third of the book is slightly confusing with so many characters and the constant jumping back and forth between different times. However, it does start to pick up and even though I didn't fully understand exactly what was happening in certain chapters, the overarching plot was compelling enough to convince me to read on. I think the translation at times is a little bit clunky, certain phrases lack the lyrical quality of Suman's work but overall the tone is not significantly impacted. 
I did really enjoy the last half of the book and it was satisfying to finally understand how the characters are linked.
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I really liked this book.  It was a different historical fiction book to read, set in a different time than the usual WW books.  It was really well written and well developed.
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This is a book with a complex narrative structure. Its story is told by Scheherazade who had been silenced by the traumatic and catastrophic events that led to the Great Fire of Smyrna, which killed and displaced tens of thousands. When she eventually breaks her silence, she weaves multiple threads into her storyline, which are not always linear in their chronology. This is made even more intricate by the fact that the true identity of the narrator will only be fully revealed as we work our way through her story. However, stay with her and you will be richly rewarded. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, Smyrna - today’s Izmir – was one of the wealthiest cities of the Ottoman empire, a cosmopolitan and tolerant society. Schehezerade’s story is personal, but it is also the story of the downfall of the Ottoman empire and the role that the European powers played in it – essentially pulling the strings in the background to serve their own political interests. 

The story starts to fully deepen when the lives of the main characters – and there are many of them(!)- become entwined. It is this entanglement of people from all walks of life and different cultures that allows Defne Suman to be so even-handed in her representation of the colourful and well-functioning melting pot Smyrna was at the turn of the century. One of the key scenes in the book takes place on New Year’s Eve 1921 in the enormous kitchen of one of the wealthy European families who have made a comfortable living for themselves in this part of the world. This scene represents a micro cosmos of Smyrna: Greeks, Turks and Armenians work together with their new sensitivities since the Greek takeover, whilst elegant foreigners mingle in the ballroom, enjoying their decadent celebrations. At the same time, two opposing armies of men who grew up together lay in wait for the spark that will ignite the place they all love and they all call home. As one of the main protagonists has it: ‘We are all living on borrowed time’. 

This book is beautifully written, through the lives of its protagonists we experience the tragedy and the complexities of war as well as the deep traces it leaves on the human experience. It is dedicated ‘To those who have been exiled from their homeland’. The parallels to what happens in so many other parts of the world at the moment make it an even more compelling read.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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There is so much to love and appreciate about this book, the writing is fantastic, the sense of time and place is wonderful, and the characters are full of depth and so varied. I learned a great deal about a piece of history I knew nothing about, which is one of the reasons I love historical fiction. The only thing I struggled with, until I understood how this format was being presented, were all the jumps in time and a large cast of characters to place during these jumps. Once I figured that out and became more familiar with the characters, it read more smoothly but really, the luscious writing, the beautiful descriptions of both a beautiful, bustling Smyrna, and then the chaos that follows, is so worth the time taken to read this book. I also feel this book would be wonderful as a reread as well, going in the second time with a better understanding of the format and already knowing the cast of characters.

4.5 stars rounded up to 5
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