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The Dervish

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  34 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The first Arab Spring: love and revolution in the air

The first Arab Spring: revolution and passion seethe and erupt in this action-packed romance during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Kazan’s novel takes us intimately behind the veil, to see and experience the Ottoman world,to let us view, from the “other” side, how the cultural and political antagonisms between the
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by Opus
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3.35  · 
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 ·  34 ratings  ·  20 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I'll be reading a lot of books set in Turkey this year, so I was happy to receive a copy of this through NetGalley.

The Dervish tells the story of the Allied occupation of the former Ottoman Empire between the end of the first world war and 1923, when the Republic of Turkey was formed by rebels led by Mustafa Kemal, through the eyes of Mary, an American war widow who has moved to Istanbul to be with her sister.

I think this needed to be a much longer novel to successfully accomplish everything the
Review originally posted at

I love books about Turkey, especially when they’re set in Istanbul, so this in itself was already a real treat for me. The second thing that I really loved about the book is that it taught me a lot about a period that I didn’t know very much about. Last year I wrote my thesis on the Arab Revolt, but I had no idea of all the things that went on in Turkey as the last remnants of the Ottoman Empire slowly crumbled, and what it took befo
Ian Racey
Sep 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is a work of propaganda. It devotes itself to crafting a grossly distorted picture of post-WW1 Turkey in which the population of Anatolia is racially homogeneous (which is to say, entirely Turkish) and peaceloving, and the source of all fighting and violence during the Turkish War of Independence is foreign armies greedily invading the country to carve it up into colonies for themselves. What's more, in Frances Kazan's Istanbul, every character in the book--American, Turkish, British, even ...more
Claire McAlpine
May 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
An interesting story that provokes interest in the real historical figures that inspired it, not least Halide Edip Adıvar, the Turkish novelist and feminist political leader.

The author Frances Kazan, clearly passionate about Ottoman/Turkish history, was married to the film director Elia Kazan who was born in Istanbul.

The Dervish is a novel about Mary, a young American widow who loses her husband in the 1st world war and decides to leave America and join her sister in Istanbul, her sister's husba
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Much to enjoy about this book which uses Turkey's revolt against the Sultan and the Caliphate as a backdrop. The story takes place in 1919-1922 when a young widow named Mary who's gone to Istanbul to visit her sister at the US Consulate gets embroiled in the national resistance movement. Mary is an artist, not a politician, and her status as an "impartial observer" is used by the American embassy to keep tabs on her new-found friends, including Mustafa Kemal (later known as Attaturk). Though ele ...more
Margaret Fisk
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I’m having trouble writing this review not because I didn’t like the book, because I absolutely did, but because it’s a non-traditional narrative and so conveying the essence of The Dervish is complicated. Though I haven’t read it in forever, The Dervish brought to mind A Passage to India. These two books both show a different culture through Western eyes, but not through the objective observer so much as through an innocent, ignorant, perspective that becomes entranced first with the flashing c ...more
Vera Marie
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Frances Kazan bases her historical novel on a fairly well-known period of history–post World War I, but it concerns Turkey–whose history is not widely known in the West. Because Kazan has devoted years to the study of Turkish history, and has written an academic book about Halide Edip, a woman who played a key role in Turkey’s Nationalism movement, the reader will learn the actual details of the struggles between Allied powers, Greeks and Turks as modern Turkey took shape and the Ottoman Empire ...more
H. P.
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-spec-fic
There are three tacks an author can take in writing historical fiction (not mutually exclusive). She can insert herself into the cracks of the historical record, freely inserting words into the mouths of historical movers and shakers at the turning points of history. She use the novel as a vehicle to teach a history lesson. Or she can use a particular place and time as a backdrop to tell a story. The first is an abomination. The second tries to do something better done by a history book. The thi ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and thought-provoking story filled of hope, determination, and love. “The Dervish” by Frances Kazan is set right after WWI in Turkey amongst the turmoil of the falling Ottoman Empire. Distraught at the death of her husband, Mary travels half-way across the world to try to heal the grief over her loss. Not long after reaching her sister, whose husband works at the American Consulate, Mary has first-hand encounters with the rebellion brewing amongst the citizens. A chance encounter wit ...more
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Kazan's novel, which takes place during the same era as Downton Abbey, weaves the history of the founding of the modern Turkish republic with the story of an American artist, Mary Di Benedetti, a war-widow who gets drawn into the nationalist fight when a young Turkish man thrusts a bundle of papers into her hands moments before he is a killed by an occupying British soldier. Slowly she builds friendships with Turks, falls in love and gets drawn into the Turkish nationalist movement.

Many times h
The Dervish tells of events leading up to the creation of the Republic of Turkey through the eyes of a Western artist named Mary Di Benedetti. There are a lot of historical details mentioned in the book. Having recently taken an online course on world history, it was interesting to me to see names I recognized from my class appear as characters in this novel. The descriptions of various places in the Ottoman Empire made the setting come alive for me.

Despite this (or perhaps in a way because of i
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
A young war widow goes to Constantinople to be with her sister. Her brother in law is with the American Consulate. Mary, the young widow is an artist, so she wants to immerse herself into the culture. But she finds she has to be cautious around the local people.

Everything is changing, Islamic turmoil is starting, political power struggles. Mary gets caught up in the middle of this intriguing life, even becoming a somewhat unrelenting spy.

The author (who was married to Elia Kazan who was born i
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Set in the exotic, tension-filled atmosphere of post-World War One Turkey, this book tells the exciting tale of a young American woman who becomes involved in the nationalist struggle and falls in love.

Mary, a very modern widow from New York follows her sister to Istanbul to try to find a new life. When she sees a young man cruelly shot by Allied soldiers and meets Halide, she starts to help with the nationalist cause. She discovers that this is a very different world from New York, and when she
Please note: The U.S. book cover differs from this one but that cover isn't available on GoodReads.

I always want to learn more about other cultures and often think fiction is an excellent way to explore them. I believe what drew me to The Dervish by Frances Kazan was my quest to learn more about whirling dervishes, which have fascinated me since I first heard about them.

What kept me captivated instead was a beautifully written story about the Turkish culture during the last days of the Ottoman
Going on with my world tour of 52 countries started last year, I just visited Turkey with The Dervish.
Once again, I got caught by the format of the book (letter, with memories) and the intensity of the historical events, so that I had to go back and check if this was fiction or nonfiction.

The story is set on the background of an essential time in Turkey history: just after World War I, with the Allies disastrous tries to cut the country into pieces, the conflict between the Turks and the Greeks
Elizabeth Grieve
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This story is set in Turkey's recent past, during the turbulent years of the early 1920s and the fight to create the Republic of Turkey. Written from the viewpoint of an American woman who sympathises with the cause, it is very informative, evocative of old Istanbul and to one who has lived there, conjures up vivid images of that wonderful city.

Although I hadn't read the first book by Frances Kazan, 'Halide's Gift', which preceded this, I am looking forward to reading this too.

Reviewed in exchan
May 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
I tried. Kazan clearly knows A LOT about ottoman and Turkish history, but...if I wanted only that I'd reach for my history books. Will try to plough through, but the characters seem so disconnected and relationships seem built on flimsy interactions. All very surface level so far.
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story begins in Turkey in 1919. And it tells the events that culminate in 1923 with the creation of the Republic of Turkey through the eyes of Mary Di Benedetti an American war widow who is in Turkey with her sister at the American consulate
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
inert and repetitive. endless descriptions of feelings that had been "buried" or "dead", followed by dry historical/political passages. wanted to pull my hair out around halfway through.
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Suzie Sims-Fletcher
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Clare Diston
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Read my review on my blog:
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Patricia Eichenlaub
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