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Seraglio: A Novel

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  254 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Transporting readers to the menacing yet majestic world of eighteenth-century Turkey, biographer and Middle East expert Janet Wallach brilliantly re-imagines the life of Aimee Dubucq, cousin of Empress Josephine, in her first novel Seraglio.

At the age of thirteen, when en route from France to her home in Martinique, Aimee Dubucq is kidnapped by Algerian pirates. Blonde and
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Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 21st 2003 by Nan A. Talese
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Historical Fiction Featuring Real People
108th out of 140 books — 45 voters
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79th out of 81 books — 7 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 478)
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Elizabeth Hunter
Aug 31, 2009 Elizabeth Hunter rated it it was ok
The story of the French girl who was abducted by pirate, sold into the harem of the Ottoman sultan and survived to become the most powerful woman in the Empire--while her schoolmate became Napoleon's Empress Josephine--is a fascinating one. Unfortunately, Wallach doesn't seem to have either the level of historical detail or a deft hand with character and pacing to make this a very satisfying read. Decades are skimmed over and her years in power are only briefly touched on. I know that records of ...more
Bonnie
Jul 27, 2010 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, I finished it in one sitting. Great insight into the Ottoman Empire and life as a member of a harem. I know its fiction but the research that went into this work is insane. This is a period of history that I was not that familiar with so I ate it up. I can't wait to read more by this author, her style is entertaining and the amount of detail is incredible. Overall a wonderful random used book store find.
Kate
Aug 16, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing
This was my first introduction to the world of Harems and the Ottoman empire and I loved it! I was so unfamiliar with this time period and the ways of culture and life, so it was really interesting for me to read about it. Women were seemingly disposed and used very easily, which is disturbing, but it was also a life much like the courts of England - It can be an honor, until something goes wrong, that is.
Kecia
Jun 26, 2007 Kecia rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
One of the worst novels I've ever read. The story had promise...a cousin of Empress Josephine is captured in route from Martinique to France by Algerian pirates and sold into the Ottoman Emperor's harem...but it did not live up to that promise. Boring!
Elena
Presumably well researched - it all sounds very authentic... HOWEVER - BOOOORINGG! BOOORING!!!
Even if this was a biography - i really wished that the story was more fleshed out! We still know nothing about Nakshidil's life other than the few things described by Tulip... I don't understand what she did everyday for 30 years, how she spent her time?! Because all we are told are about dressing richly and getting "groomed" to satisfy the sultan, but those were a few events out of 30 years of the wom
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Robin
Oct 15, 2013 Robin rated it it was ok
This is another one plucked from the stacks while weeding; I wouldn't normally be attracted to a story that starts with a sexual assault of a kidnapped young girl. The narrator is a eunuch who initially fought the life that was chosen for him and then made his peace with it, and from the first beginning chapters it looks like it will be about Aimee's strong will and decision to become powerful and important within her unbreakable constraints of the harem. There could be something positive here. ...more
Amber
Aug 11, 2009 Amber rated it it was ok
2 1/2 stars. The cover is enchanting. That's my highest praise for the book. I am relieved that the writing is truly wanting, because I did not LIKE it. True- what warm fuzzy happy ending could come from a realistic look at a Turkish sultan's household in the 1700's? It really, really sucked to be a woman. It was SAD. It was no romp through witty dialogue and love-conquers-all sort of thing, even being a novel. But I do not think I would dock a rating just because the book was not to my tastes; ...more
Mary M
Apr 26, 2009 Mary M rated it liked it
Two and a half to three stars. I liked the time and place of this historical novel, but so much of the story fell flat.

First, there are very few characters for a story that covers almost a whole lifetime, and these characters are not well developed. Supposedly Nakshidil likes to gossip, but who does she gossip about? For a story with a large harem, it's surprising that the only women whose names we really get to know are the main character, her one friend, and her enemy. And the enemy is such a
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Yelda Basar Moers
The author put a good effort here, but unfortunately this book succumbs to the type of orientalism that still plagues historical fiction set in the Ottoman Empire. This is the Western view of the Ottoman Empire harem life, not the authentic life in the Ottoman Empire itself. One of the biggest hurdles is language. It's difficult to have an authentic novel set in the old Turkish culture when you don't know the language or have a deep sense of the customs and ways back then.
Lindsey
May 27, 2014 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Carroll Savage
This was so much better than The Four Queens. It's the same story-a European girl gets kidnapped and sold into the sultan's harem-but I enjoyed the characters in Seraglio more. Also, this book didn't focus on the sexual side of the harem like The Four Queens does; it focuses on the political intrigues and the influence of the European powers on the Ottoman empire.
Sarah
Dec 15, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I picked up this novel in my local library because it was near another book I was looking for, and the cover drew me in. This story really develops into one of female empowerment, seeing as Nakshidil becomes the top position a woman could hold in the empire. I loved the embroidery motif, seeing as I have a knack for needlework myself. It really gave the reader a wide eye into Turkish Ottoman culture: the way they mixed Greek fluidity and Islam's rigidity. As a lesbian who is obsessed with LGBT f ...more
Sarah Wagner
Sep 02, 2011 Sarah Wagner rated it liked it
This is a fictional tale based on the life of Aimee du Buc de Rivery, cousin to Josephine Bonaparte. Aimee was kidnapped by pirates at a young age and became a slave in the sultan's harem, where she was known as Nakshidil. Like the other inhabitants of the harem, Nakshidil spends most of her time engaged in intrigues, hoping to gain the sultan's favor, and to outwit her rival Aysha's schemes. While interesting, Seraglio fails to be engrossing and I felt the characters were not well developed or ...more
Eileen
May 27, 2016 Eileen rated it liked it
The writing isn't the best and the dialogue can be wooden, but the choice of a eunuch narrator was an interesting touch.
Melissa Mahle
Jul 09, 2012 Melissa Mahle rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I chose this book because I am a fan of Wallach's biographies and I am interested in the story of Aimee du Buc Rivery. Wallach conducted extensive research, intending to write a biography on Rivery, but was unable to conclusively determine if the French-born Aimee was indeed the Nakshidil, the French speaking mother of Sultan Mahmud. Therefore, she decided to turn the book into a historical novel.

Wallach's writing style for biographies is delightful, but did not work as well for a novel. Voice
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Richelle
Mar 23, 2010 Richelle rated it did not like it
Sounded like this would be interesting or exciting, but it was boring. None of the characters drew me in, and the story just kind of fell flat. The author set out to do a biography, but after researching, could not find enough information to write a biography, so she just made it historical fiction. In my opinion, this strategy didn't turn out well. It seemed like she had already put enough effort into the research that she didn't want to give up on it, but it read more like her research with ju ...more
Joe
Jun 13, 2007 Joe rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Not Many
This book just wasnt that interesting. It went fast, but mostly because the writing was very basic. It was good to learn a bit of history about the Ottoman Empire, but I felt like the writing style was just way too poor. I am not that smart, and I dont remember one single vocabulary word that I didnt know in the entire book. ...more
David Ward
Dec 04, 2015 David Ward rated it it was ok
Seraglio by Janet Wallach (Nan A. Talese 2003) (Fiction – Historical). Set in eighteenth century Turkey, a Western girl is kidnapped by pirates and placed in the Ottoman Sultan's private harem. This is the story of the years that follow. My rating: 6/10, finished 2009.
Cindy
Feb 18, 2011 Cindy rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting novel of a young girl, kidnapped by pirates who ends up in the Ottoman sultan's harem.
The (sir-al-ee-o) is the sultan's private world, his palace at Topkapi in Istanbul. Based on a true incident. I really enjoyed this easy to read story.
L.C. Lavado
Um livro com um ambiente muito cativante que me fez colocar a Turquia na minha lista de países a visitar.

Recomendo-o a todos os leitores que gostem de romances históricos.
Hummingbird Farms
I was reading this book as I visited the Harem at the Topaki Palace in Istanbul... After seeing the setting of the book it helped make the story come alive. It was a lite read.
Susie Burnett
Jan 18, 2008 Susie Burnett rated it liked it
I wanted to read something about Turkey during the French Revloution, and I love history that has been fictionalized. Not much romance, but realistic.
Susan
Sep 29, 2010 Susan rated it liked it
The background of this novel is fascinating and it had the potential to be a really compelling novel, but the writing didn't live up to the history.
Miguel
Jan 16, 2013 Miguel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Uma história que dava para muito "sumo", mas ficou algo muito vazio...
Regina
Feb 23, 2011 Regina rated it liked it
Interesting and unexpected
Heather
Dec 10, 2007 Heather rated it it was amazing
Great historical fiction.
Linotte
Jul 01, 2008 Linotte rated it it was amazing
This was a different take on the Aimee Dubuc legend than Chase-Riboud's Valide. Wallach's research--what she could get, that is--was very careful. According to the author's note, this began as a biography of Aimee Dubuc de Rivery, but because she couldn't get all of the info she needed, it became a fiction novel. Wallach's writing is elegant and flowing, and her portrayal of the power structure in the Sultan's harem is a disturbing look at how women really do treat each other in groups.
Linda
Linda rated it liked it
Jul 25, 2016
Hannah
Hannah marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2016
Edwin F
Edwin F rated it it was amazing
Jul 18, 2016
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