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The Towers of Trebizond

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  971 Ratings  ·  176 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
May 24, 2014 mark monday rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing  ·  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
T.D. Whittle
Jun 07, 2015 T.D. Whittle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
“‘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
May 04, 2009 Christy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca Foster
This reminded me most of Frost in May by Antonia White, another novel I enjoyed more for its theological reflections than for its plot. You no doubt know the famous opening line: “‘Take my camel, dear,’ said my aunt Dot…” Laurie, Aunt Dot, and Father Chantry-Pigg are in Turkey to assess the feasibility of starting a High Anglican mission. Aunt Dot is particularly interested in the place of women in Islam. Within a few chapters I started getting traumatic flashbacks to Jan Morris’s Last Letters ...more
Jun 30, 2016 Mitch rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, just-fiction
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
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
Elizabeth K.
Jul 31, 2009 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-new-reads
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
Feb 15, 2011 Cindy Erlandson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Read this humorous, warmly satirical, adventure-travel novel years ago and was just reminded of its pleasures as I began a reread of the authors collection of essays appropriately titled Personal Pleasures. Certainly high up on that list should be one titled On Rereading of Favorite Books. If Rose Macaulay were still with us today, her line from the essay Booksellers Catalogues would be a reflection on the pleasures of Good Reads: "To Read these catalogues is like drinking wine in the middle of ...more
Apr 19, 2014 Jeanette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2013 Mary Ronan Drew rated it liked it
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 it was amazing  ·  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
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
Jun 24, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2010 Hirondelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dennis Fischman
Feb 14, 2015 Dennis Fischman rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jul 10, 2012 Kirsten Mortensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 21, 2015 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Aside from the brilliant first line this book had the hardest beginning 15 pages I might have ever read. I consider myself pretty well read with a fairly extensive vocabulary and I was lost amongst the obscure religious terms, random capitalization, run-on sentences and excessive use of "said" as a verb. Disappointing since the book's premise had such promise. There were a few moments of brilliance and some great quotes but too little, too late. Not much of a plot here either. I know books are s ...more
Oct 04, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
I enjoyed this, but found it lacking in spark. I don't imagine Rose Macaulay herself ever being very excited about it. "Oh ... it's just this thing ... about the Church of England ... camels ... Turkey ... there's a bit of tragedy ... to be honest, I can't be bothered to explain it."
Hall's Bookshop
Oct 02, 2015 Hall's Bookshop rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: james
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
Feb 13, 2010 S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Terri Jacobson
Jul 26, 2014 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
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
Nov 10, 2009 Raully rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"'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
Probably the best opening line ever but after that it seems to enter a competition to write the longest sentence ever and probably if you're an Anglican and understand all the endless references, you won't mind this but I found it tedious while at the same time acknowledging that the book is witty about religion and the absurdity of human lives, reminding me of Alice Thomas Ellis although there the analogy has to stop because I love her books, and I'm also reminded of Muriel Spark and Nancy Mitf ...more
Karen L.
Jul 10, 2011 Karen L. rated it it was amazing  ·  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 it was amazing  ·  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
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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 5 Oct 30, 2013 08:55PM  
  • Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
  • No Bed for Bacon
  • Before Lunch
  • White Man Falling
  • Less Than Angels
  • England, Their England
  • The Adventures of Gil Blas
  • Fireflies
  • Ennui
  • The Unbearable Bassington
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
  • Titmuss Regained
  • Pictures from an Institution
  • The Harpole Report
  • My Search for Warren Harding
  • Tropic Of Ruislip
  • The Outward Room
  • The Lecturer's Tale
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.” 15 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.” 9 likes
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