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The Towers of Trebizond

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  831 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Hailed as "an utter delight, the most brilliant witty and charming book I have read since I can't remember when" by The New York Times when it was originally published in 1956, Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond tells the gleefully absurd story of Aunt Dot, Father Chantry-Pigg, Aunt Dot's deranged camel, and our narrator, Laurie, who are traveling from Istanbul to leg ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1956)
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mark monday
oh to travel, isn't that just the thing, everyone's favorite hobby, to get away and have adventures, see life from different angles, take in history and view the panorama of the world all at the same time, you go some wheres and see some things, but unless you are traveling for pure thrill-seeking or just to find a new setting to drink and to flirt, you go to someplace and see those things and you are really seeing all the things before them, the history of a place, reading and thinking and drea ...more
This book was a pleasant surprise, full of understated humor and wisdom about the pull of the ancient world on the self and the scope of human aspiration and folly over religion. It fits the bill for my love of travel books that portray together an outer journey and an inner journey of the traveler. As a novel we are looking through the mask of young Laurie as she recounts a tale of traveling with her Aunt Dot and a stuffy old Anglican priest, Father Chantry-Pigg, under the goal of scouting out ...more
Dec 19, 2014 Tony rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: World travelers; British women with a sense of humor.
“Take my camel,” said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from the animal on her return from High Mass.

First lines. I love them. Because, if they're like this, how can you not stop whatever you're doing and insist on finding out just who could write such a thing!

And who couldn't love a camel?

I'm about two reviews away from a discussion of how I may not be a feminist though I would very much like to be one. [You may want to read that first - The Pumpkin Eater - even though it's not written yet, to u
Jul 30, 2015 ·Karen· added it
Recommended to ·Karen· by: Tony
Shelves: brits
I didn't howl, no, but I certainly snorted in quite a few places.

Yes, it is funny and absurd and all over the place and skewers travel books and travel writers and publishing and the press and spying and the iron curtain (Burgess and Maclean) and it's incredibly erudite too, with Xenophon and the Euxine Sea and Priam and Hecuba and translators of the Classics and people travelling round these ancient places with an ancient guidebook in their hand and only seeing what they already know, and the s
That's it. This book has usurped all my top ten and is now and will possibly forever be, my favorite book.

In a book quirky, comic, and tragic, a woman travels through Turkey (by camel and jeep) with her adventurous zealous Aunt Dot who, enabled by the Anglican Missions society, has a vision of emancipating Turkish women from their Muslim enslavement by tempting them with the freedoms of the Modern West and the Anglican church (hats, tea parties, education etc.) They are joined by the septuagena
T.D. Whittle
“‘Take my camel, dear’, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass’.” This wins as my favourite first line of any book I’ve read (so far, at least). “The Towers of Trebizond” was not what I expected — though, now I think of it, I am not quite sure what it was I expected. Let me think … well, for one thing, when I bought it, I thought it was nonfiction, which it is not; however, those who knew her say that much of Rose Macaulay’s own life is written into i ...more
Laurel Kane
Great read. I was supposed to read this book for a literature class i took at UCLA last summer, but didn't quite get to it. Macaulay writes in that British we're-all-crazy-and-kooky-and-we-think-it's-normal-and don't-realize-it's-actually-hysterical kind of way. At some points I was laughing out loud (teaching the monkey how to drive Aunt Dot's car!). The characters' names alone were humorous(Father Chantry-Pigg). The end, however, is devastating, but made me like the book even more because I di ...more
I wanted to read this book because it was a humorous fictionalized trip to Turkey (where I've been) on the part of the author, along with her eccentric aunt and a camel. What could go wrong?

Well, this: the book was overloaded with references to esoteric religious references (Anglican, High Church, Low Church, Roman Catholic, etc, etc, etc...) that were mainly meant to show how ridiculous they were. Unless you were an expert in these, the semi-humorous/semi-serious religious arguments went flat i
Truthfully, two 5 stars in one week!! THANK YOU, GR friends- and both from genre less visited.

An absolute masterpiece. OMG, why is it so rare that this level of wit, erudite comparison and pure exuberance can be filtered into less than 300 (277)pages within the last 50 years?

Well- no review or synopsis here of plot because others on this page have done it better. But this travel covers not just Turkey and other countries in the Mideast (early 1950's) but also discourse and depth of comparison a
Mary Ronan Drew
Towers of TrebizondRose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond (1956) is one of the strangest novels I've read. It certainly has one of the strangest opening lines I can think of:

"Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from the animal on her return from High Mass."

A charming opening with a sharp hook. Who can resist wanting to know what this camel is doing in Oxford and what other eccentricities we will find in Aunt Dot's daily life. The narrator's low-key humor draws the read
Stephen Hayes
Sep 11, 2010 Stephen Hayes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: Brother Roger, C.R.
A delightful novel about a High Anglican attempt to reclaim "the abandoned places of empire". The narrator Laurie and her (her sex is unclear until near the end of the story) aunt Dot, together with her aunt's Anglo-Catholic chaplain Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg, set out for Trebizond, the site of the last Roman empire, with a camel. They are joined by a Turkish feminist who they hope will help to liberate oppressed Turkish women by converting them to High Anglicanism.

They meet interesting people, i
Elizabeth K.
I should probably warn people that I'm on a weird kick of 1950s English popular fiction by women. And this was enormously popular when it came out. A young woman accompanies her aunt and a priest on a tour of Turkey. There are a lot of jokes about Anglicanism, many more than I thought were possible, actually. This was intriguing on several levels -- it's fairly interesting right there on the surface, and also a great look at the time when it was written, and fun to compare and contrast to what p ...more
Cindy Erlandson
This is a both deliciously hilarious and deeply serious travel story, by an author who is very knowledgeable about history, geography, and especially Anglicanism. Two English ladies and an Anglican priest travel through Turkey together, along with a camel. The priest, Father Chantry-Pigg, has in mind to convert Muslims and plant churches; Aunt Dot is focused on studying the plight of Muslim women, hoping that teaching them about the freedom that Christian women have, will cause them to want to b ...more
This is no Under the Tuscan Sun or Riding the Iron Rooster. It is not a travel narrative with breathless or sardonic descriptions of a land and its people. It is, instead, a personal meditation on religion and love loosely based on a period of time that Rose Macaulay spent in Turkey.

She was, at that time, having an affair with a married man, a situation which clashed fiercely with her Anglican beliefs. Her love and guilt are recounted with typical English understatement and detachment. For exam
Macaulay, Rose (1881-1958). THE TOWERS OF TREBIZOND. (1956) *****.
This was one of those novels that I had heard about, but never got around to reading. It’s back in print in a New York Review of Books edition, and well worth the read. Rose was a well-known writer and social figure in England – though less so in the U.S. – in her day. She was the author of thirty-five books, twenty-three of them novels. This novel was her last, published only two years before her death. She was related to Lord M
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dennis Fischman
This book improved noticeably once Aunt Dot and Father Chantrey-Pigg move off center stage. Halide, the Turkish doctor, interested be greatly, and I'd love to hear the story retold from her point of view. The book really rides or falls with the narrator, Laurie, and despite being reflective she also seems rather dim. She is or wants to be religious but confesses and demonstrates that she has no clear sense of right or wrong to call her own. I enjoyed some of her observations but she ended up ann ...more
I found this via the American Book Review's list of best first lines (which seems to have gone AWOL, so I can't link to it). Who could resist this?: "'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."

The narrator, Laurie, goes to Turkey with her aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg to try to establish an Anglican mission. It's as funny as you might expect, and the travel passages are excellent; I particularly liked Macaulay's gift for lyrica
Kirsten Mortensen
What a quintessential mid-century novel; I found the cadences quite Hemingway-esque; the narrator even fly fishes which cracked me up.

Towers is also very much a "literary" novel, yet despite that is also accessible -- Macaulay never slips over the line from literary into experimental -- if you prefer contemporary pop fiction you won't care for it but if you appreciate the classics at all you will not find this a difficult read by any stretch. I enjoyed every minute of the book. Laughed out loud
Hall's Bookshop
I found this an extremely odd book. I grew to dislike the narrating main character, Laurie, more and more as her character developed, though I enjoyed her narrative style, and felt she raised some interesting and important questions. She comes across as both intelligent and utterly thoughtless, and of course much of it is very dated, being published in the 50's. The best way to describe it would be a fictional meta-travel narrative, though this doesn't really cover everything. It is interesting ...more
Terri Jacobson
I chose to read this book solely on the basis of its famous first line: "'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass." The book lived up to all the potential of that line. It's the story of an English woman traveling in Turkey (the site of the Trebizond in the title), accompanied by her niece and a priest of the Anglican faith. Their ostensible mission is to convert "Moslem" women to the true faith so they can throw off the shackles ...more
"'Take my camel, dear,' said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."

This book has one of the best opening lines I've read, the antithesis of a Lytton-Bulwer.

Its also a novel in the skeptical-Christian tradition. Macaulay (of those Macaulays) tells here of a High Anglican mission to Turkey in the 1950s competing with local Muslim traditions, "Billy Grahamites", and a Seventh-Day Adventist reunion on Mount Ararat in anticipation of a nuclear Holocaust. (How
Karen L.
Jul 10, 2011 Karen L. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of English and Anglican things
Recommended to Karen L. by: Cindy Erlandson
This is a fun read for Anglicans or Anglophiles. Author Rose Macaulay weaves her own thoughts feelings and experiences into this fictional story. The story involves the Turkish Travels of Aunt Dot, her odd entourage consisting of her Anglican Priest, a Turkish doctor friend a camel and her niece,who is also the story teller. She knows her theology, geography and has a wonderful English sense of humor. At times the humor reminded me a bit of author P.G. Wodehouse. Humor is interspersed throughout ...more
May 31, 2009 Loren rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
In 1984. an elderly retired member of the British Foreign Service recommended this book to me and mentioned - casually - that he'd known Macauley. I noted his recommendation, but didn't read the book until only a few years ago, in 2007 or so. It is as good as he told me it was. It is blissfully funny, and clear-eyed, and very sad. It is a vivid image of Turkey in the 1950s, and of the British psyche at the same time (see Jan Morris's wonderful intro to this edition for comments on that), and - i ...more
Rebecca Cook
How can you not like a book that opens with, "Take my camel dear," said Aunt Dot...I loved this book! It describes a world that is unknown to many of us (well, at least to me) and does so in a way that invokes history as well as present prejudices, all the while spinning a provocative philosophical and theological debate. Nothing is resolved nothing but lots of interesting questions are raised, which you will ponder long after you set the book down. At turns hilarious and poignantly tender, this ...more
early- through mid- 20th century writer dealing with how to reconcile faith and modernism. The parts in Turkey aren't all that special. The end threw me for a loop; although I had been following the narrator (with eyes rolled) as she dealt with ritual, institutionalized faith and the cult of the individual, the "twist" at the end seemed like it was supposed to carry more emotional baggage than I could afford it. Only worth it if you are interested in how 20th century Brits who are more grounded ...more
This adventure story with a melancholy autobiographical heart records the wacky journey of 3 English people and a camel in the Black Sea. It didn't have enough about Trebizond for me, a place that interests me because it was a legendary Byzantine capital. The novel is very often funny in that Brit ironic way, but the narrator, a young Enlishwoman, also bears great sadness.
Well, this was an interesting book. Interesting in a couple of ways: firstly because it's such an arch and knowing but quiet comedy. Some of the humour is extremely bitchy and dry, while at the same time extremely erudite. Secondly, it's an era or writing that I've not read a lot from - British novels from the 1950s don't seem to have cropped up in my reading history very much (post-war, but before the freedoms in language, love and thinking that occurred in the sixties).

Here we have the tale of
This book reminds me of the first time that I ate yogurt. I was very young at the time and it looked like pudding. I dug in, anticipating a smooth, sweet mouthful and didn't eat yogurt for a long while. But now... I love yogurt and look forward to its 'interesting' flavor.

Just as I was mislead by the appearance of yogurt as pudding, the cover comments of this book identify it as a funny book as does the first line of the book. Although I'm certainly handicapped by not 'knowing' all of the cultur
Oh, to be well read, well-bred and snootily, kookily English. The narrator, her camel-riding Aunt Dot and the stern relic hoarding Anglican Priest Father Chantry-Pigg tsk tsk in disapproval and reprobation throughout the gorgeous and mercurial lands of Turkey in the 1950s: a time when the Iron Curtain clanked ominously in the oleander and cypress scented winds and when the ghosts of Greek sorcerers would still sell you magic green bottles of certain liquids that could change you forever. Tedious ...more
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Guardian Newspape...: February - The Towers of Trebizond 6 12 Feb 19, 2015 01:36PM  
NYRB Classics: The Towers of Trebizond, by Rose Macaulay 1 4 Oct 30, 2013 08:55PM  
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Emilie Rose Macaulay, whom Elizabeth Bowen called "one of the few writers of whom it may be said, she adorns our century," was born at Rugby, where her father was an assistant master. Descended on both sides from a long line of clerical ancestors, she felt Anglicanism was in her blood. Much of her childhood was spent in Varazze, near Genoa, and memories of Italy fill the early novels. The family r ...more
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“Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, climbing down from that animal on her return from high Mass.” 14 likes
“...when the years have all passed, there will gape the uncomfortable and unpredictable dark void of death, and into this I shall at last fall headlong, down and down and down, and the prospect of that fall, that uprooting, that rending apart of body and spirit, that taking off into so blank an unknown, drowns me in mortal fear and mortal grief. After all, life, for all its agonies of despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking and of love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at times noble and at times very gay; and whatever (if anything) is to come after it, we shall not have this life again.” 6 likes
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