16. Aug, 2021

The Silence of Schehrazade by Defne Suman

At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the ancient city of Smyrna, a devastating moment in history determines the fates of the four families.  

Scheherazade is brought into the world one night in September 1905, whilst her mother lies in an opium daze. On the same night, Avinash, an Oxford-educated Indian man lands in the harbour of the city. He is a spy sent on a mission by the British Empire. Seventeen years later, fires rip through the city as the Ottoman Empire comes to an end.  

This story is told through a Levantine, a Greek, a Turkish and an Armenian family as their lives are entwined together determining their fates in the catastrophic demise of the Ottoman Empire.  

I was submerged into the culturally rich and atmospheric city of Smyrna from the offset. This is an epic saga abundant in history and infused with love, loss and despair as each character is brought to life. Whilst this is not a quick and easy read, Defne Suman is a true storyteller as each page, each sentence flowed with perfection making it difficult to put down. The timeline is woven together changing from chapter to chapter through the different characters, although this was a little bit confusing at the start, I soon fell into the flow and began attempting to piece the tale together. I often find the magic and heart of a story gets lost through translation, however, every bit of magic has been expertly retained as the story of Scheherazade is a delight to read.