on 6 June 2016
If only, I could award 4.5s because Geert Mak has written even better books! E.g. Amsterdam.
Geert Mak is an idiosyncratic but brilliantly analytical social historian. As a former editor of 'De Groene Amsterdammer' (a Dutch radical weekly), his eye for detail and his ear for dialogue are pronounced - as evidenced by this book.
The book helpfully combines a good history of Byzantium/Constantinople, now Istanbul, with the past and present role of the Galata bridge. As the book's subtitle declares 'a journey between the Orient and the Occident', the Galata bridge crosses between old Istanbul and its modern cosmopolitan life. To walk that nearly 500 metres (as I did for the first time nearly 40 years ago) takeboth his evocative styles you on a journey through those two worlds and the underbelly of subsistence commercial life in today's Turkey. Geert Mak is reminiscent of Lawrence Durrell in both his evocative style and in his capture of a 'spirit of place'. Read this book before you next visit Istanbul
on 28 April 2012
Before visiting Istanbul for the first time, I read a number of books about the city, and this proved the most evocative and - for me - most meaningful. Centred on the Galata Bridge that spans the Golden Horn, the author uses the lives of its mostly poor and sometimes desperate inhabitants to tell the story of the city, both ancient and modern. Beautifully written.