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The Aviary Gate Paperback – 2 Feb 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747596441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747596448
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 283,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A hugely enjoyable novel, multi-layered, vividly depicted and a fascinating story, filled with the colours, sights and scents of Constantinople in the sixteenth century ... fast moving, complex and deeply satisfying' Joanne Harris 'Forbidden love, sailors and secrets - fasten your seat belts for Hickman's period tome ... Think Jane Austen meets Pirates of the Caribbean' In Style 'A magical, engrossing read that takes us inside a 16th century harem - and into a world populated by scheming, exotic characters ... this absorbing novel of intrigue and forbidden love manages to be both cerebral and entertaining' Glamour 'Lie back on your ottoman and relax. Katie Hickman will take you to a magical land, the Topkapi harem in Istanbul in Istanbul in 1599...There are luscious descriptions of costumes, of silk robes and mother-of-pearl twinsets, of ropes of jewels...this is a box of Turkish delight' Independent

About the Author

Katie Hickman is the author of five previous books, including two bestselling history books, Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia. She has written two travel books: Travels with a Circus, which was shortlisted for the 1993 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon. She is the author of one previous novel, The Quetzal Summer, for which she was listed for the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year award. Katie Hickman lives in London with her two children and her husband, the philosopher A.C.Grayling.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. E. de Jager on 23 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this and will recommend it highly to any of my friends who enjoy historical fiction. It is lush, sexy, shocking and a thrilling read. Set during two time-frames, present day and 1599, it follows the story of Celia Lamprey a slave to the Sultan of the Ottoman empire. Hot on her heels, to discover if she was a genuine person, is the academic Elizabeth. We follow both women on their searches and find out much more than dry historic books would have you believe.

The style of writing is languorous and beautifully descriptive - it matches the setting perfectly. It gives a fascinating insight in how the west perceives harems and what goes on behind the scenes.

All I can say is: find a copy, read it and then see what you think about it. Some people, like the previous reviewer, would not like it, but others, like me, will love it, purely because the style is so very different.

Katie Hickman is a fantastic researcher and has written some excellent books, notably her Daughters of Britannia book which excels at giving a voice to women who are seen in so many instances, but hardly ever heard.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Cazzie on 5 Jun 2008
Format: Hardcover
As previous reviews have covered the plot, I'll just say that The Aviary Gate was one of the most visceral reads I've ever had the pleasure of getting lost in. I could feel the silks of the harem's garments, see the sun striking the rooftops of Constantinople, smell the pungent roses in the garden at the Sultan's palace and taste the seawater of the Bosphorus. I used to come down with a thump when I'd close the book and realize that I was actually in England and not ensconced in the Sultan's palace.

The story brilliantly weaves historical fact with romantic fiction. It was an insight into Eastern culture and harems that few of us would ever have otherwise had. I couldn't put the book down but at the same time I didn't want it to finish so I'd carefully meter my daily reading.

Honestly, if you're looking for a sensory book that will play up to your senses, intellect and romantic nature, then The Aviary Gate has to top your list.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Jun 2009
Format: Paperback
At the end of this book, Hickman mentions all the research she did: but sadly while it definitely pays off in terms of atmosphere - rustling silks, perfumed gardens, glittering jewels - it does little to sustain a plot which is a standard `English girl in a harem' cliché.

Set, as so many novels currently are, in a dual time of 1599 Constantinople and present day Istanbul, this tells the story of two women entrapped: one literally in the Sultan's harem following a shipwreck, the other in a self-destructive love affair. One finally escapes, the other doesn't.

I read this because I was drawn to the Elizabethan story from the reviews but actually found that very derivative and was actually far more interested in the present day story which doesn't get nearly as much page space.

The Elizabethan narrative felt very unevenly paced with (real) characters introduced at the start and then just disappearing, and the plotline reduced to a standard female power-struggle in the harem, complete with poisonings, stabbings, and drownings...

I was a little disappointed until the ending where suddenly Hickman seemed to get her act together, and the sudden ambiguities there raised the book. If only the rest of it had been as subtle, nuanced and haunting as that.

So overall this is well-written but completely clichéd escapism: a perfect summer read, but with hints that it could have been something far more interesting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Manon Stemmer on 22 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
I really liked the idea about an English slave re-discovered by a modern day Oxford academic. But unfortunately the book left me disappointed.
The modern-day heroine is more hate- than love able. Thinking it should be the description of a graduate student is laughable. Her story takes up so much space the author could have used it for a proper second story instead of doing two half-baked ones.
There is absolutely no proper description of the harem, no feel how a 16th century Ottoman court looked like.
It also ends very open like the author already thought to continue the story and didn't know where to end the first one.
It's a shame.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover
This received quite mixed reviews on here and I had reservations when I began reading. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised and found it a very enjoyable read with plenty of historical interest and atmospheric descriptions.

There are two time frames used in the novel; the current day story of historical researcher, Elizabeth Staveley, is used as a tool to provide the background to the more interesting historical section. Elizabeth finds a fragment of a manuscript suggesting that Celia, an English girl, may have been ship-wrecked by pirates at the end of the sixteenth century and subsequently sold into the harem of Sultan Mehmet III of Constantinople (now Istanbul). The novel follows a few months in Celia's life in 1599. Having been bought by the Sultan's favourite concubine, as a gift for her mother-in-law, we follow Celia's rise within the harem and the intrigue and sceming that goes on within those walls.
Paul Pindar is her fiance and assumes her drowned in the ship-wreck, until his cook, John Carew, chances to see her while visiting in the palace. Both the historical and the modern time frames then follow these characters in a search for the outcome of this love match. Did Paul manage to rescue Celia from the harem? What were their ultimate fates?

While parts of this novel were excellent (such as the description of the gelding of a young boy so that he might become a much prized eunuch), other parts were less well written. The modern story, in particular, had a rather chick-lit feel to it.
In discussion, our book group hilighted many incidences of dubious behaviour or inconsistencies, and I have to admit that these criticisms were valid. Some of these instances did detract from my reading, but mostly my enjoyment of the novel allowed me to ignore them.
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