by Julie HaleJuly, 2005
Birds without Wings
This broad historical novel is de Bernieres' first book in more than a decade. His previous release, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, was a national bestseller, and readers of that epic will not be disappointed with his latest offering. Set in an Anatolian village during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, this gripping saga is richly populated with a host of memorable characters, who struggle to hold on to their lives in the midst of war. Philothei, a young Christian woman, is set to marry Ibrahim, a man of Muslim descent whom she has known since childhood. When Philothei dies unexpectedly, Ibrahim plunges into madness. The tragic tale of the two lovers is paralleled with stories about the town's other inhabitants, including Rustem Bey, a wealthy landowner with an unfaithful wife, whom he tries to have stoned to death; a Greek scholar named Leonides, who hatches political schemes in secret; and Iskander, a potter, whose son, Karatavuk, grows up to fight at Gallipoli. Intertwined with these various plotlines is the life of Kemal Ataturk, the military leader who launched Turkey as a modern, secular nation. Written with plenty of dramatic appeal and fascinating factual background, de Bernieres's book brings to life an important chapter in world history. A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.readinggroupcenter.com.