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Facts More Illuminating & Beautiful than Fiction
on 22 May 2017
I have just finished reading this wonderful book for the second time,immediately following my first reading. This was not because of any problem, but simply the sheer exuberant generosity with which Jason Goodwin has endowed his history of the Ottoman Empire. A cornucopia, horn of plenty, about the Golden Horn.
Previous reviewers seem dismayed that this book is not a dusty academic piece of writing, accurate to the letter, but not the spirit, of the Ottoman Empire. It is written, not like a list on a war memorial - just names & dates but, in a way it is like a beautiful wall of Iznic tiles, or an embroidered quilt, and that style reveals far more of the multi-faceted culture & six century-long Osman dynasty's rule over vast lands & diverse peoples.
I came to this book via an abiding affection for all things to do with the Ottoman Empire and especially Istanbul, its heart. Various novels, Jason Goodwin's own Yashim ones and other authors like Elif Shafak and Jenny White, Katie Hickman & Barbara Nadel encouraged me in a desire to explore more about Istanbul & hence resort to non-fiction.... the dark side!
The great thing for an amateur who revels in ancient regimes is that works of historical fiction can spawn a serious interest in studying a person or period in a greater depth. This book, Lords of the Horizons is my bridge to that, as it combines a lightly worn but profound erudition ( doubtless the result of hours of research, reading dusty tomes) with a beautiful style of writing - friendly, amusing and delightfully digressive. Goodwin's footnotes area little treasure trove in themselves.
So this largesse is why I have re-read Lords of the Horizons. I have no doubt I shall happily read it again & discover yet more interesting facts about this fascinating world.
I would also recommend Ogier de Busbecq' Turkish Letters' trans.E.S.Forster