Last Letter From Instanbul – Lucy Foley
You will guess my age group when I confess that as a child at school learning about places on the Map of the World there was no Instanbul in Turkey, just Constantinople. There was also a Burma, Persia, Ceylon and Calcutta. Closer to home many towns are changing their names on the basis of their heritage such as Gove which we now know as Nhulunbuy and Ayres Rock known as Uluru. Some other towns are looking down the barrell of a name change because of “Cancel Culture”. I tell you, it can get mighty confusing……….
Last Letter from Instanbul is set in Constantinople as it was known in 1921, three years after the occupation by allied forces following World War 1.
The story is told in chapters by five different characters with differing perspectives and roles ( and which can add to the confusion) :
- Nur, a young woman who is the sole provider for two elderly female relatives who were all turfed out of their beautiful home to make way for a hospital for the British Army
- A young, orphaned Armenian boy rescued by Nur whom she also takes home
- George, an Army Doctor from Scotland
- A Prisoner taken during the war
- A Traveller crossing through European countries
When the young boy falls seriously ill Nur has no choice but to take the lad to the British Army Hospital where she forms an unlikely attachment to George. We see the lines between enemy and friend grow fainter.
The positives about this novel are the wonderful descriptions of the city, from the heat of the day, to the gardens, to the architecture, and the smell of spices in the markets and in the meals that are prepared, which all make you want to learn more about Turkey. The author also tackles the changes within the city since wars end : younger women not wearing face veils and their changing roles in the workforce and the resentment amongst the young men who have been disillusioned by war.
Through the activities of all characters we are shown that it’s not as simple as ‘2 sides’ in a war, or that one can accept ‘facts’ at face value.
The negative is that sometimes it is difficult to “join the dots”. It’s not until the end of the book that it all comes together.
Deemed a Romance, I thought it more a love letter to Turkey than something special between characters. That romance was a fizzer in my book. But hey, I’m a Ceylon and Persia girl – what would I know……
About The Author
Lucy Foley , born in 1986, studied English literature at Durham University and University College London and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry. She is the author of The Book of Lost and Found and The Invitation . She lives in London and is mad keen on travel.