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The Towers of Trebizond

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,439 ratings  ·  262 reviews
"'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass." So begins The Towers of Trebizond, the greatest novel by Rose Macaulay, one of the eccentric geniuses of English literature. In this fine and funny adventure set in the backlands of modern Turkey, a group of highly unusual travel companions makes its way from Istan ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published November 30th 2003 by NYRB Classics (first published 1956)
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Kumari de Silva This book sent me to Google more than once, even though I had a better background than most in church history, having read Dun Scotus, Augustine, Aqui…moreThis book sent me to Google more than once, even though I had a better background than most in church history, having read Dun Scotus, Augustine, Aquinas etc. I had never heard of Trebizond or Circassians - and having looked them both up as I was reading the book completely added to my enjoyment in reading the book, not to mention reading up on camels and caucasian horses etc.(less)

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mark monday
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
I've changed my mind and I'm awarding the full 5★. I found the ending a bit abrupt and the change in tone quite startling - but it is 20th century. That was the way 20th century fiction rolled!

Or is it fiction? I've read a review that describes this novel as a roman à clef which is certainly how it feels. Definitely a satire about the travels of the wide-eyed and guileless Laurie and her travels through Turkey and beyond.

I found this old map helpful;

It isn't long before you realise t
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
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 1956 author Rose Macaulay published her last novel, a delightfully loopy story of a maiden aunt, her Anglican vicar, her niece the narrator, their mentally disturbed camel and the occasional hangers-on who embark on a trip into the remoter parts of the Middle East in search of ancient architecture and risk incursion into the Soviet Union. Engaging semi-satire, partly autobiographical, opened up by occasional bursts of grace, and blissfully lacking in "cute." In fact, Macaulay's prose "sells" ...more
Dillwynia Peter
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read - and I have read some truly strange stuff.

I found the book moved along a gradient from comedy to almost essay and that takes some doing, especially as, I the reader, didn't object. I laughed loudly and frequently at the biazarre behaviour, discussions and commentary of our narrator and companions. The chief theme - Anglo-Catholicism is not to everyone's taste and I suspect it would lose some readers, but this was a theme dear to Macauley's
Mar 28, 2014 added it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jacob Overmark
The Towers of Trebizond doesn´t seem much from faraway, faraway being 62 years ago.

However, the clichés of British eccentricity does tower quite a lot.

I admit you would probably find it more entertaining if you are more into the fine art of distinguishing between the branches of the Anglican tree and take a delight in lashing out at the Moslem community and the Billy-Grahamnists for not seeing the true light of the British god.

A roman à clef, where crisis of faith and doubts about the moral co
May 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Read this as part of a challenge on Goodreads. Thoroughly enjoyed it and think that it is one of those novels that can be read more than once to gain further insight.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Laurie as she travels with her eccentric Aunt Dot and the High Anglican Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg. Their mission is to "spread the word" to the Muslim world.

Along the way they encounter various "personalities". This novel has a wonderful opening line that sets the tone for the story. I really enj
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
Beth Bonini
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is one of those mid-century 'classic' British novels that is still cherished by devotees of the period, but not particularly well-known now - except for, perhaps, its famous opening line: "'Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.'" It took a while for me to fall in love with it, but fall in love I did. I would actually give is 4.5 stars . . . only withholding that last half of a star because there is something in its tone (r ...more
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, classics
This was a fairly entertaining novel, written in a droll and always informative manner. The framework is a travel narrative, which was very enjoyable, and within that framework, the author used the narrative to comment on the state of the Church of England and the efforts to evangelize in a predominantly Muslim region, which also included contact with other Christian denominations. Beyond that, the narrator is struggling with her attraction to High Church Anglicanism specifically, and Christiani ...more
Laurel Kane
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
The first chapter or so, in which the family background of Aunt Dot is sent up so hilariously, was an absolute and utter delight. As soon as the group of eccentric Brits begin their tour of Turkey, however, I was put off by the headache-inducing density of the cultural and historical references, and most of all by the superior, smug—indeed, racist—tone of the humor. British satire works best when it pokes at British folks and culture; it quickly becomes odious when outwardly directed.
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
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So many people have professed their love for The Towers of Trebizond that I couldn’t help but choose it over several other 1956 books, despite having already read three other Rose Macaulay novels this year. Known by many people simply for its fabulous opening line:

“Take my camel, dear,’ said my aunt Dot, climbing down from that animal on her return from high Mass.”

Well, if that isn’t enough to make you smile and to wish to carry on reading, I don’t what is. Macaulay is frequently wry as she sets
Cindy Rollins
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 20for2020reads, 2020
Rose Macaulay was recommended to me as a great minor author by Mr. Thomas Banks of The Literary Life Podcast. Though fiction this book could also be called a travel logue and a quite enjoyable one at that. It is also deeply satirical and one of those books which would grow funnier with understanding.
A bit Babylon Bee when it comes to the CofE but lovingly so. At times, it is positively Wodehousian although it ends with more pathos.
#202for20 Satire or minor author
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cindy Erlandson
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Elizabeth K.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Abigail Bok
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
In my mental library There is a small section of books I love until the ending spoils them. This book more or less falls into that category, though in this case its virtues outweigh my disappointment.

The Towers of Trebizond is a very hard work to define. It is a first-person narrative that appears to be a travel memoir but is theoretically a work of fiction, though one with strong autobiographical elements. It has also been theorized that it is a roman a clef--since it was published in 1956 in B
Stephen Hayes
Aug 26, 2010 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
Mary Ronan Drew
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
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
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
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dennis Fischman
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
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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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