Colleen's Reviews > Portrait of a Turkish Family

Portrait of a Turkish Family by Irfan Orga
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Jun 12, 09

Read in April, 2007

What a wonderful book! This was a recommended read in my Lonely Planet guidebook so I purchased it to take on our trip to Turkey. I didn't read much of it while over there, we were too busy, but wish I had because I would have looked up some of the places where the author lived or went to school. As it was I loved reading about a place in Istanbul and knowing just where it was and what it looked like. Sometimes writers have a way of writing or describing that makes you visualize everything so clearly. Irfan Orga is one of those writers. He made everything about that time period in Turkey come so alive. I don't think he's a good writer, stylistically. And there are some gaps and inconsistencies in the story. But I don't think that took away much from the book. What an amazing life Irfan Orga had! He and his family were impacted so negatively by both World Wars--the loss of his father, his uncle, and his way of life, the burning of his home, the bombing of Istanbul, starvation, and the mental illness of his mother. And yet through it all, he seemed to remain optimistic about life. In many ways life continued on normally, he did normal "boyish" things despite the horrors going on around him. So I was very surprised to read the afterword by his son. (When the story ends he isn't even married and it seemed like he never would.) Apparently his life, once the book ends, isn't exactly a bed of roses. He gets into some trouble with the law when he lives with a woman, unmarried, and she has his child out of wedlock. He is discharged from the Air Force, possibly dishonorably. And he is forced to flee from Turkey to Great Britain and never returns to the country he loves so much. His wife turned out to be a nasty, cheating women (from the mouth of her son) and you wonder what he saw in her, why he gave up his life for her. He wanted to die towards the end of his life. A sad ending to this story.
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