Farewell: A Mansion in Occupied Istanbul
This novel opens in 1920 Istanbul, during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. The events unfold through the experiences and reminiscences of a family living in a posh seaside mansion. The head of the family, Ahmet Resat, is a minister in Sultan Vahdettin’s cabinet. Ahmet’s wife, Behice, spends her days mostly indoors, arguing about household affairs with Aunt Saraylihanim, who acts like a mother-in-law. The aunt has brought her grandson, Kemal, into the mansion without Ahmet’s permission. Kemal was injured in a battle but now, having sympathised with the Turkish revolutionaries, Kemal is a wanted man and hiding in the attic. He is being nursed by a young and pretty maid, Mehpare. An attractive widow who lives next door and a family doctor also feature in the story. Ahmet is torn between his allegiance to the Sultan—who’d made a secret pact with the British administrators—and his care for his rebel nephew, Kemal.
The first half of this novel recounts various happenings in the mansion, such as the developing love between Mehpare and Kemal. Although there are evocative descriptions of life in Istanbul under the occupation forces and the soldiers’ atrocities and brutal treatment of the citizens, one might wonder where the narrative is heading. However, the plot picks up steam when Kemal decides to join the National Movement under Ataturk in Ankara; Mehpare is determined to follow him. The doctor and the widow also decide to assist the Nationalists, and Kemal requests the reluctant Ahmet for support. Matters worsen when we learn that Mehpare is expecting.
While the events of the Turkish War of Independence are well known, these are recounted through the joys and sorrows of the characters to make this novel both an educational and an interesting read.