Title: The Oracle of Stamboul
Author: Michael David Lukas
Publication Date: February 8, 2011
Hardcover: 304 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
An elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel set in a mystical, exotic world, in which a gifted young girl charms a sultan and changes the course of an empire’s history
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?
The Oracle of Stamboul is a marvelously evocative, magical historical novel that will transport readers to another time and place—romantic, exotic, yet remarkably similar to our own.
Exotic, mystical, and engrossing, The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas takes the reader back to the last days of the Ottoman Empire and deep into Sultan Abdulhamid’s court. Purple and white hoopoes usher in the birth of Eleonora Cohen whose birth and life was foretold. Raised by her father and Aunt, young Eleonora is quite precocious and instead of being without her father she travels to Stamboul as a stowaway to be with him. Eleonora’s gifts are soon recognized by the Sultan, who invites her to court, relies on her knowledge and soon becomes interested in far more than her political acumen. Lukas has created a beautifully exotic debut novel that will take the reader back in time to the seat of the Ottoman Empire. Through vivid imagery and detail the reader will have little doubt they are in Turkey. The sights, sounds, and smells are so richly described it made me yearn to travel. Lukas has created a marvelous ensemble of characters and Eleonora is absolutely endearing, delightful, and mysterious. The Oracle of Stamboul was utterly fascinating in its exotic nature and mystical premise, and stunningly lyrical prose. Lukas has created a stunning debut novel and definitely is an emerging author to be watched. I highly recommend The Oracle of Stamboul to both readers and book discussion groups.
Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a Rotary scholar in Tunisia. He is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, and his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and the Georgia Review. Lukas lives in Oakland, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn’t writing, he teaches creative writing to third- and fourth-graders. He is also the author of The Oracle of Stamboul: A Novel.
To learn more about Michael David Lukas please visit his website.
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I received a complimentary copy of The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.