The Aviary Gate
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The Aviary Gate (The Aviary Gate #1)

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  978 ratings  ·  163 reviews
Elizabeth Stavely sits in the Bodlean library with trembling hands. Before her is a fragment of parchment which provides the clue she has been looking for to a story that has been untold for 400 years: a tale of intrigue, forbidden love and dangerous secrets in the Sultan's harem.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2008 by Bloomsbury (first published January 1st 2008)
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Katie Hickman's "The Aviary Gate" is a story within a story. In present day Oxford Elizabeth Staveley, a graduate student, is looking through the Bodleian Library archives in search of material for her thesis on captivity narratives. She finds a fragment of a manuscript which describes a shipwreck and the unfortunate aftermath when the ship is boarded by Turkish pirates. The captain of the ship is murdered and several of the women are taken captive by the pirates, among them the captain's daught...more
Oh I couldn't give this book anything other than a 5 star rating, it has everything I enjoy in a great read. An historical 'romance' I've put the romance in inverted commas because it's not a typical romance with a HEA but rather a romance in the victorian sense of the word. Beautifully writen it captured my imagination right from the start. I love this time period 16th Century but not from an Elizabethan angle infact I find that period of 'English' history quite boring, no it's the Venetian and...more
The Aviary Gate by Kate Hickman is a lush narrative that reaches back into the sultan's harem of Constantinople, 1599, to relate a bittersweet story of loyalty, love, and loss. Elizabeth is a modern day grad student at Oxford, entangled with a rake and researching captivity narratives for a bid at an MPhil. She stumbles upon some clues that suggest an Englishwoman named Celia Lamprey survived a shipwreck in the late 1500s only to be sold as a slave into the Ottoman sultan's harem. Elizabeth's qu...more
Near the end of this novel, an Istanbul archivist, who is helping an English academic with her research, muses: "What is this western obsession with harems?"

Well, the popularity of novels about harems can probably be attributed to the bits which describe the, well, performance of a harem lady's raison d'etre. If that is what you are looking for, this novel certainly has a few paragraphs here and there which will please you.

But the author is best known for her non-fiction, and unsurprisingly the...more
Feb 09, 2009 Betty rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of mystery, history, love stories
Mystery, History, and Love Story during the Ottoman Empire
Haunting & refreshingly different, the story begins when a small scrap of old manuscript, dating to 1599, is accidentally discovered among the texts of Elizabeth’s studies. Elizabeth feels she must learn the fate of Celia, the betrothed daughter of the ship’s captain after his ship has floundered & Celia has been captured & brought to the Sultan’s harem. So begins our student’s research, delving into the realm of the Sultans a...more
I am so bloody disappointed. By the ending! I mean that poem that Celia leaves to Anetta could have been from before she went to see Paul, that night. Or indeed, it could have been from later on, after having come to the conclusion she would have never seen him ever again.

Anyway, the novel was interesting overall. I got to envisage a picture of Istanbul that I loved and it made me want to visit it for real. But the ending, good God, the ending! Why choose such an ending to a 500 pages novel? (at...more
Ben Kane
I heard about this novel about 3 years ago on Radio Four. Neglecting to note down the title because I was driving, I discovered it again by posting a query on an historical fiction forum I'm on. Funnily enough, I ended up reading it just after I'd read a similar tale of piracy and women carried off into captivity, The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson. Sadly, this book wasn't in the same league as Johnson's novel.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, because I did. Hickman has clearly done her rese...more
I listened to this book, I suspect that made the experience even more painful. There were such long narrative bits that had nothing to do with the plot and felt like the author was preaching. Celia was bland and a little too unrealistically stupid, or maybe that was realistic, but who wants to hear an adventure story from the perspective of a mewling, ignoramus who refuses to adapt? Which brings me to Elizabeth, our modern heroine.

What a boring, pathetic person who didn't convincingly change. I...more
sigh. i really wanted to like this book of two parallel love affairs - one from the 16th century and the other present day. it had all the right elements...meticulously researched, nicely written, desperate lovers, and a harem? maybe i could learn something! but it just didn't click for me. i never connected with celia, the young englishwoman sold into slavery after surviving a shipwreck, and paul, her merchantman betrothed, even less. never felt the love, esp. since they do not share...more
Wow! The start is incredibly uncomfortable to read - cue crossing legs and squirming. But once you get passed the mutilation and hardship the characters are instantly likable, even the cruel and rebellious ones. It's obvious how much research Hickman put into the novel (especially with the map and glossary), and one can not fail to appreciate this. On the other hand some writers get bogged down in their research and this can threaten to overshadow the plot and characters, but Hickman narrowly a...more
An enjoyable and richly told tale. However, as is usually the case with stories split between a modern and an historical character, the present day heroine wasn't as interesting as the, in this case, 16th century woman.

This novel is very similar to The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson, but I agree with Ben Kane that it isn't really in the same league, nevertheless it is a very engaging story which I had a lot of pleasure reading.
This book was OK. I really want to give it 2.5 stars. The novel is set up as a frame story with a set of characters in the present and a set in the late 1500's. I felt like the characters in the 16th century were a little more fleshed out, but that there was a lack of character development for all. The ending sucked.
Nádia Batista
Já tinha este livro na minha mira há algum tempo, mas o seu ambiente, ao mesmo tempo que me seduzia, repudiava-me. Não estava pronta para ler um livro tão longe dos meus lugares comuns; apesar de por vezes o fazer, prefiro voltar sempre a portos seguros. Penso que não poderia ter escolhido melhor altura para ler O Portão do Harém, pois senti-me bem na viagem para Istambul, e tornou-se uma leitura bastante boa.

A história deste livro é uma história dentro de outra história. Perdoem-me a repetição,...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The story begins in the present time when student Elizabeth Staveley discovers a parchment in the Bodleian library that she's been looking for and which could hold the key to a mystery that's been hidden for 400 years.

In Constantinople in 1599 the Sultan's mother (the most powerful woman in the land) discovers the bodies of two people who have been poisoned in the Sultan's Palace. One is the chief of the eunuchs and the other is a young slave girl.

This is the start of an epic tale of love, murde...more
I am finding it hard to write this review. On the one hand, this book uses a lot of Orientalism cliches, as many of the other reviewers have already mentioned. Scheming concubines, erotic arts, dealings in sorcery, etc. The present day narrative was also just meh, although it did feature descriptions of Istanbul that renewed my fascination with visiting the city. The books also had nicely drawn characters (Jamal for example) that didn't really go anywhere. I also wish she had spent more time tal...more
Life in an Ottoman harem.

This received quite mixed reviews on Amazon UK, and I had reservations when I began reading. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised and found it a very enjoyable read with plenty of historical interest and atmospheric descriptions.

There are two time frames used in the novel; the current day story of historical researcher, Elizabeth Staveley, is used as a tool to provide the background to the more interesting historical section. Elizabeth finds a fragment of a manuscript...more
Ingrid Fasquelle
J'attendais beaucoup de ce livre et j'ai été déçue. La quatrième de couverture semblait prometteuse : je m'attendais à découvrir la vie au harem, les luttes de pouvoir, les intrigues et une histoire d'amour contrarié... Au lieu de quoi, je n'ai trouvé qu'une histoire sans grand souffle épique... Une histoire certes dépaysante, à l'atmosphère chamarrée et curieusement planante, qui se lit facilement mais à laquelle il manque un "je ne sais quoi" de plus consistant... Longueurs, rythme lent, perso...more
I so very much did not want to like this book. From the reclining odalisque with the come-hither stare on the cover, to the jacket flap description of "a rare glimpse into the forbidden confines of the Sultan's harem," the whole package just screamed "bodice-ripper" and "not my kind of story."

But guess what. You know that old adage about not judging a book by its cover? Well, it's been proven true once again. Even though, the whole time I was reading The Aviary Gate, I kept telling myself I shou...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oh well, the cover was nice anyway.

Incredibly wimpish historian finds some artifact or other shoved down the back of a book somewhere (amazing that no one else had found it in 300 years as it didn't seem to be particularly well hidden but never mind). This artifact/letter whatever it is sheds light on the fate of a woman captured and sent to a harem in the early 17th century. Wimpish historian goes on hunt to Turkey to find out more, and the book travels back and forth between her modern world a...more
Jean Marie
This is another one of those "bouncing narratives" and in this case the narration goes from modern day Elizabeth, a scholar with the most unfortunate love life and renaissance era Celia, an English woman who was sold into slavery after her father's ship sunk. Elizabeth's story is that she comes across some paperwork linking to Celia, and thus the search to what happened to this woman begins. Celia's story is the meat of this book (so much so that I feel that Elizabeth's story should have been cu...more
I couldn't put this book down. I started out listening to it on tape, and the reader had a beautiful accented voice for the characters. Then I had to buy the book on my Nook to see how all the names were spelled, and read along while I continued to listen to it every chance I got. The author crammed a lot of stuff into this book, some more successfully than others. Her main character, Celia, was very weakly sketched. I wish she had given us more on the voyage and shipwreck itself, on Celia's yea...more
The tricky thing about writing dual time stories is how to make them both equally compelling without the past consuming too much of the story, making the present irrelevant. Unfortunately, this just didn't master the balance of the past and future. I was completely disinterested in Elizabeth and her love interests - she wasn't compelling, or making significant discoveries, she was just there to introduce the mystery that would spill to the next book.

Celia Lamprey, other than being the object of...more
I love books about life in confinement - prison, monastery, brothel, harem, boarding school, you name it - and I have a soft spot for Turkey as well, so I expected to really like this one. Well, it was just okay.

It does have some good elements. There are interesting details about Ottoman palace life. The mystery of the attempt at assassination of the Chief Black Eunuch, and the struggle for power between Safiye Sultan, the mother of Mehmed III, and his favorite concubine Gulay Haseki, are fascin...more
The start of the book was rather confusing and slow. You get pulled in by the story during a major event, and then afterwards come all the details about the people involved and other necessary facts. I'm not unfamiliar with this kind of writing, but when this happens I always need to get through some pages before I really get into the story. Then halfway through, the story gets exciting and I just had to read it to the end in one long breath.

However, even after finishing the book I still don't...more
I love this kind of novels. they cracefully combine a modern story about finding yourself and a historical mystery.

theese books usually follow the same recipy:

1. woman in her 20´s/30´s with some sort of emotional/relationship issue that she needs to escape.
2. she finds a historical significant artifact which peeks her interest.
3. she tries to undfold the truth behind the mystery by travelling to another city/county (in this case the wonderfull istanbul)
5. in her search for the truth she meets...more
In the modern day England, Elizabeth has just uncovered an ancient document which tells the story of Celia, an English woman held captive in the Sultan's harem. In 1599 Constantinople, Celia is pulled into the scheming and intrigue of the Sultan's harem, where the Sultan's mother vies for power against the Sultan's favorite concubine. Their stories run in parallel as Elizabeth uncovers Celia's story and Celia uncovers the palace plot—but all of the intrigue amounts to little. Elizabeth and Celia...more
This is the second book by Katie Hickman I've read, although it's the first work of fiction by her I've read. But still in the same territory, the sex trade in history. The first book I read was Courtesans - mini biographies of five courtesans - and now this one is set in the Sultan's harem in the 1500s in Turkey. One of the main characters is Celia, renamed Kaya for the harem, who is an Englishwoman. Shipwrecked in the Mediteranean and presumed dead, she was then put into the slave trade and ev...more
This book has the story line of my favorite kinds of books, set in a different time and place, with some history mixed in, and with well rounded characters. At the beginning of this book, I couldn't put it down, the story brought me in and I was quite excited to learn more about the lead, Celia, and her fate. But from the middle of the book to the end, I lost enthusiasm for the story and found myself bored. Near the end, I pushed myself through to the finish... The ending was exactly what I expe...more
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Katie Hickman was born into a diplomatic family in 1960 and has spent more than twenty-five years living abroad in Europe, the Far East and Latin America. She is featured in the Oxford University Press guide to women travellers, Wayward Women.
More about Katie Hickman...
Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century The Pindar Diamond Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon: A Journey Through Bhutan A Trip to the Light Fantastic: Travels with a Mexican Circus

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