To Save an Empire: A Novel of Ottoman History

Written by Allan Gall
Review by India Edghill

Turkey in the 1870s was struggling to find its way in a rapidly changing world. Faced with demands for modernization and surrounded by nations hostile to the idea of an Ottoman Empire, the new Sultan, Abdulhamit II, hopes for peace, but is inevitably drawn into war. Abdulhamit feels he can trust no one (reasonably enough, as, like most sultans, he came to the throne after the unwilling abdication or death of his predecessor) and regards even his most dedicated advisors with suspicion.

To Save an Empire focuses on the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, a complicated, bloody conflict that influences Abdulhamit’s plans for his country’s development as a modern country in a modern world. His struggles with Grand Vizier Mithat Pasha over their country’s progress illuminate the politics of the time. Turkey’s multicultural population and its strategic location between Europe and Asia add to the intrigues and conflicts between both individuals and nations.

Although a bit talky and didactic (sometimes it reads more like a history book, rather than a historical novel), this is still a solid, enjoyable read illuminating a time and place little-covered in fiction.