Priscilla M. (Houston, TX)
A Story of Courage
Last Train to Istanbul is a story of courage, but not the blockbuster kind Hollywood likes to portray. It is the quiet courage of convictions born of love, patriotism, and compassion. The story unfolds slowly and thoughtfully, laying the groundwork for a satisfying conclusion. The careful layering of relationships, both personal and political, is part of the essential framework.
Turkey, strategically placed, is being pressured by the Allies and by Germany to choose sides in the early days of WWII. Macit is an official in the government's general staff and attend endless meetings as Turkey tries to remain neutral. His wife Sahiba grieves over the estrangement of her sister Selva, who, against her Muslim family's wishes, marries a Turkish Jew and moves to Paris. Selva and her husband Rafe move from Paris to Marsielle to try to escape the ever tightening noose being drawn by the Gestapo. The fate of all Turkish citizens, Jews and Muslim, hangs in the balance as Hitler moves farther into France.
The main characters in this story are believable and solid. Some you will identify with more than others, but all play a part in developing the story. I learned a lot about the people of Turkey and how they took care of all their citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, during WWII.
Bea C. (Liberty Lake, WA)
Saving Turkish Jews
The historical part of this book is very interesting. I had never read anything about Turkey's involvement in saving Jews during WWII. Parts of the book were filled with suspense and I had no trouble finishing the book. The only thing that kept it from being a 4 star book is that the characters were rather one dimensional and too good to be true. If you like historical fiction, this one would be good, it being a step up from a romance novel.
Catherine M. (Mankato, MN)
Last Train to Istanbul
Ayse Kulin's engaging and illuminating "Last Train to Istanbul" is, throughout its pages, a story of separation and connection. From a broad perspective, Turkey struggles to remain disengaged from the war raging throughout Europe while England, Germany, and Russia seek to draw it (not she, as used in the story) in. At the same time, but from a more focused perspective, the main characters—individuals, families, and Turkey's courageous and honorable diplomats—grapple with distances (literally and figuratively), discord, and constancy between and among themselves.
I learned a great deal from reading Kulin's book. As with Thomas Keneally's "Schindler's List", I came to understand a bit more about morality, valor, and decency during dishonorable and abhorrent times.
Linda M. (Windsor, CA)
I found Last Train to Istanbul to be a very good book. It relates historical events from WWII (previously unknown to me) in a compelling way. The author tells a great story, and her characters and settings are beautifully painted. The reader gets a wonderful idea of the beauty of Turkey as well as the fear of living in Occupied France during the war. The author does a very good job of giving the reader enough information about each of the characters and then brings them together in the last quarter of the book. The author wove together actual people and events into her story so the reader learns a lot about Turkey's role in WWII as well as the protection they afforded their citizens living in German occupied lands. I think it would make a good book club choice as well.
Laurie F. (Brookline, MA)
Best Read in a Long Time
Bravo to Ayse Kulin and her translator John W. Baker for such a rich and poignant story. Last Train to Istanbul takes you on a journey with two Turkish sisters, their families and their acquaintances, all who lead separate lives during the German occupation. Despite the events, the sisters cling to one another though their memories and concerns during this dark time in during Hitler's march. Each character takes a different path, through their ideals and political survival to end up on the Last Train. A highly recommended read!
Carolyn L. (Cincinnati, OH)
Jews and Turkey--A Lesser Known Story
The Last Train to Istanbul gives readers a glimpse into life in Turkey as WW II presses on the country's doorstep. It is the story of an open-minded family that will confront their daughter's decision to marry a Jewish boy only to cause Selva and her husband Rafael to move to France where they hope to find happiness.
In France, the Nazis are escalating their efforts to round up Jews. Faced with the possible loss of her husband, Selva turns to the Turkish Consulate for help to save her family.
Eileen F. (Drexel Hill, PA)
Bumpy Ride Home
Interesting facet of WWII involving Turkish citizens escaping Vichy ruled France. The book gives a good insight into the role of the diplomatic corps in aiding citizens. Some of the main characters seemed self involved and unaware of the scope of the war. Some plot lines went no where. Also the translation seemed stilted at points during the story.