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Ottoman Odyssey: Travels Through a Lost Empire

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The author’s odyssey began when she looked beyond Turkey’s borders for contemporary traces of the Ottoman Empire. Their 800 years of rule ended a century ago—and yet, travelling through twelve countries from Kosovo to Greece to Palestine, she uncovers a legacy that’s vital and relevant; where medieval ethnic diversity meets twenty-first century nationalism—and displaced pe ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Pegasus Books (first published October 4th 2018)
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It is 900 years since the Ottoman Empire began and just over a century since it ended. You’d think that after 100 years there wouldn’t be much left to see of their legacy, but you’d be surprised. Travelling through the twelve modern countries that make up what used to be their territory, Alev Scott uncovers far more than she expects.

Scott, who is a half-British, half-Turkish journalist had begun her looking for clues for her story in Turkey, talking to the meld of populations that live there at
Yaman Hukan
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t usually write reviews on goodreads but I couldn’t stop myself from reviewing this amazing gem of a book. It is an absolutely beautiful book which i’m so glad I found in my university’s library. Tells some powerful stories on identity and exile with its effect on the long run. A must read for anyone interested in Turkey and its history. As someone who descends from a multicultural background, I was able to connect with many of the stories I read in the book, and was able to gain a better ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Geography does not confer identity. It makes us homesick, but it does not define us." Fascinating history of the peoples of the original Ottoman empire, and their diaspora. Turkey, too, is a great melting pot with many ethnic minorities and religions.
Anna Brunskill
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favourite kind of book: part travelogue, part history, part memoir, all woven together into a beautiful whole. I wonder if it’s because I’m an expat (though not an exile) that this book resonated so strongly with me, as the author examines what is meant by the notion of a homeland. She meets people of diaspora communities and people with ties to long-ago homes and distant communities, and people who may or may not be Turkish or Ottoman or Cypriot or Greek. I’ve been reflecting on what ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Alev Scott finds out, to her surprise, that she no longer has access to Turkey (too much critical journalism), she starts looking at the fringes of the Old Ottoman Empire. She visits people and states that liberated themselves from the Ottoman's, but she also visits the many historical refugees that had to leave their homes since the fall of the Empire. It is a very original way of travelling, and since Alev fluently speaks Turkish she is able to converse not only to the politicians and jou ...more
James King
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like travel literature, this book is excellent. It has a few minor issues. If you want your travel literature to be a linear journey, this book will disappoint since it jumps around. But the jumping around works well with the connecting thread of an analysis of the people and places today that once belonged to the Ottoman Empire. The connection to the former Ottoman Empire seems tenuous at times, almost forced, but it is wrapped up nicely at the end that makes it all work.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, 2019
It builds slowly and beautifully as a meditation on history, and ends as a moving memoir - much more so than I expected, and I’m so glad to have read it.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A pleasant, easy read.
Mary J Starry
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. Author traveled throughout parts of the old Ottoman Empire and talked to people about their thoughts on current Turkey policy and promotion as the new Ottoman Empire. Frightening to realize just how much people still consider themselves in terms of ethnic and national groups and look at others as the enemy.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, unfinished
Picked up this book expecting it to be a neutral overview of Turkish history, and from the opening salvo it reads as a partisan book that focuses more on minority Turks and their origins, with throw away remarks that in my view seem to belittle mainstream Turks. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, and I guess I'm ultimately a victim of my own expectations, but just be warned on what you are getting here.
Probably a 3.5. I enjoyed it overall, but I would've preferred a more cohesive narrative style of writing, as opposed to the way the author breaks down each chapter into segments. Also, her attitude towards some of her subjects often rubbed me the wrong way.
Chris F
Well written and interesting, but it did feel at times that things were missing. Possibly this was just that it was rather a short book for one with such a big premise. Certainly well worth reading.
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just traveled with the author to remnants or modern nation states of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Odyssey by Alev Scott is a brilliant piece of travel writing and was rightfully nominated for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2019. Throughout her travels, the author has tried to elucidate on the concept of a homeland - it could be a lost homeland that was regained in the current century or it could be a linguistic homeland inhabited by a diasporic community living hundreds of ...more
Brittany White
I really wanted to like this book. And overall, I enjoyed the idea of it but the author's language and voice often rubbed me the wrong way. I found her at times judgmental and condescending --describing a Roma child as grubby or describing the religious atmosphere in Jerusalem as "perverse." When discussing the Armenian genocide, at times I found her to be weirdly defensive. The author also uses the terminology "slave(s)" instead of "enslaved" when discussing the history of Afro-Turks. It's a sm ...more
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After 6 years in Istanbul, I am an unabashed fan of Turkey and its history (not the politics). So I got this book with the intention of learning more about Turkey from a Turkish origin, UK citizen Alev Scott as I had read her first book "A Turkish awakening".

What really appealed to me were the references to people and places which made a connection with me. There were families quoted in the book whom I had met, and the book took you to the region including Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Pale
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
What begins as a hunt for whatever remains in modern Turkey of the cultural diversity of the old Ottoman empire, this fascinating book ends up taking the reader to the outer reaches of the empire when the half English, half Turkish journalist Scott finds herself barred from re-entering Turkey. It's no secret that the current administration there does not take kindly to public criticism.

From Turkish-speaking Balkan natives enjoying the largesse of Turkish tax payers, to stateless Armenians, and G
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historic, travel
This appealed to me because I had recently read a thesis about the Armenian diaspora. Without some background, this would be very hard to follow, although the author does her best. This is very dense with places, dates and names in every line and would be a fact-checker's nightmare. But it is worth persevering past the initial pages. I liked the author's well-researched approach, personal travels and family stories. Particularly for readers such as me in far off lands without this type of histor ...more
I guess I have high expectations for this type of writing - historical, cultural, social travelogue of sorts - with one of my favorite authors in this genre being Ryszard Kapuscinski. While it didn't reach that level of richness, insight, etc., I still enjoyed the book. I also enjoyed the gambit of looking for roots of the Ottomon empire in modern day societies in the Balkans, the Levant, a bit into the Caucasus', and Greece and Cyprus. It is a part of the world I'd like to know more about, toge ...more
Paul Taylor
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an ambitious, highly readable travelogue of former Ottoman territories, written with a largely unbiased and healthy scepticism. It is a good companion to Gerard Russell's Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms. Excluded from Turkey for some of her journalism Scott is rather too polite (probably for reasons of self-preservation and with an eye to future reconciliation) about the current Turkish administration's shameless jailing and muzzling of journalists. I have no such constraints and proudly den ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Ambitious trip through the countries that made up the Ottoman Empire by a woman who grew up in Cyprus and England. Bit of a mess, in terms of finding bigger themes and neat conclusions, but that's kind of the point. I had not known about the swapping and forced location of Turks and greeks between the two countries in the 1920s, or that Ataturk was born in Thessaloniki. Also made me sorry that I never made it to Sarajevo when I was in Belgrade.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting journey through the present day countries which once made up the Ottoman empire. The author is half Turkish and in fact banned from Turkey at present because of her journalism. The stories she finds are nearly all sad tales of exile, loss of family and homelands and how people of different religions who once lived in relative harmony together in the same communities are now irrevocably enemies. It's not a lament for the Ottoman empire but it is a lament for that lost way of life.
Siobhan Markwell
This is part travelogue, part anthropology, part political commentary. As an ex-Ottoman history buff and Erdogan-hater, I found it absolutely delightful. Scott shines a light on little-known communities in the Balkans and the Levant and gives us surprising insights into people's desire to transcend membership of the petty political and national divides that have scarred the region. It's well-written and eminently readable.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was such a nice reminder of why I love Turkey - all that history. Scott gives it a fresh look by sharing stories of how the neighboring countries and cultures see Turkey now. It also gives one much to think about as they try to define where they belong, or where is home.
John Sheets
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful story and perspective going through Turkey, Greece, Armenia, and many other countries that have seen the impact of the former Ottoman Empire. It's easy to view this book both historically and sociologically, since the Ottoman Empire made a large diaspora/impact on many people groups.
Idelle Kursman
A fascinating read about the present-day people and regions of the former Ottoman Empire. It is full of eye-opening history that serves to explain the attitudes and relations of the many different peoples but the plethora of names and facts can lead to a great deal of confusion.
Jun 16, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
One of the Monitor's 10 best books of June 2019
Susan Lauher
“No one is native of you look back far enough. ... If no one is native, who gets to decide where other people should live?”
Karen Autrey
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very interesting book on all the countries that were a part of the ottoman empire
Julie Tulba
A bit dry but still interesting especially having recently visited Turkey.
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly enjoyable to read as a travelogue, but feels very shallow in terms of real insight about the region.
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