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The Aviary Gate Paperback – 2 Feb 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 443,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
I thought this was a very interesting read - because it's essentially two separate tales. Ever the consummate writer, Hickman has been careful to write a brightly-colored, fast-moving, sexy pageturner - the ostensible novel - braincandy for the beach - if with the use of the highfalutin dual time-stream device to narrate us through the twin lives of Celia and Elizabeth. All great.

But what you're left with at the end is the feeling that Elizabeth and Celia never found emotional fulfilment in their lives - not Celia, from her absentee and rather vapid beau - and definitely not cheated-on Elizabeth. Instead, viewed from a few weeks away, the book looks more like a love-story *between* Celia and Elizabeth, and not necessarily a platonic one either, as hinted at by the novel's steamy harem settings. I find it interesting that the story I remember is different to the one I read... that Katie Hickman has managed to conjure all this in the shimmering air above the book is really something special.
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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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Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued by the premise, the story is set in the Ottoman harem in the 16th century, and involves an English girl enslaved there...it could have been so good. However, the dialogue in the 16th century portions is ridiculously anachronistic, to the point that I found it difficult to remember it was set in the 1590s, not the 1990s. This could have been any time--why have 16th century English people, from a time when the language was famously rich and poetic (Shakespeare anyone?), speaking like they're on Hollyoaks?

The contemporary portions are just plain silly, Elizabeth is meant to be an Oxford academic but she speaks like a 13 year old. It's difficult to care about her, or her ridiculous relationship with another 'academic'.

Frankly, this feels like a first novel; I was very surprised to see that Katie Hickman has written several other published novels. The modern and historical stories don't ever mesh well, the main characters are one-dimensional, and it feels like a bit of a waste of a very good premise. Not the worst thing I've read, but certainly disappointing.
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