Sometimes there are books that come along at a time when, as a book reviewer, I simply can’t squeeze them into my reading schedule. This was one of those, and so I had to get involved in the birthday book blitz in some way, if not as a reader. (I’ve added the book to my Kindle though, and will get to reviewing it just as soon as I can)
The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus
Brothers bound by blood but fated to be enemies. Can their Empire survive or will it crumble into myth?
Since his younger brother usurped the Imperial throne, Sultan Murad V has been imprisoned with his family for nearly thirty years.
The new century heralds immense change. Anarchy and revolution threaten the established order. Powerful enemies plot the fall of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Only death will bring freedom to the enlightened former sultan. But the waters of the Bosphorus run deep: assassins lurk in shadows, intrigue abounds, and scandal in the family threatens to bring destruction of all that he holds dear…
For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?
Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.
Evocative and utterly beguiling,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is perfect for fans of Colin Falconer, Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.
Lynne, thank you so much for inviting me to share an extract from my book on your Blog, and thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising my Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the 1st Birthday of The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus.
The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is the book that I always dreamed of writing. Ever since I was a little girl… Initially I did not intend to publish – it was written to encourage my children’s interest and sense of pride in their heritage, and to teach them forgotten customs and traditions. I wanted to record stories and memories that my grandfather shared with me of his unique life before they are lost forever, and I also hoped to discover more about the characters and personalities hidden behind faded family photographs… Then one day my father persuaded me that others might enjoy this personal story set during the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, so it was published and today celebrates its first birthday!
The inspiration for this scene comes from two beautiful photographs that I have of my Great Aunts. Both were strong, independent and modern young women, confined by the traditions and conventions of their time. Yet, their spirits were free:
Jean Pascal Bey now sought and received the permission of both princesses to set about creating a suitable photographic composition with the props available to him. First, he lifted the finely-gilded tête-à-tête chair that stood by the window and placed it against a wall at an angle so that one end projected into the room; then he unrolled the small Hereke carpet that he had brought with him and laid it under the back legs of the chair, ensuring that the fringe was arranged in a way that looked haphazard and informal. He was glad that he had decided to bring this carpet: he had been right in thinking that the opulent yalı would not have such a small rug to hand. After that, he picked up a three-legged pedestal table that he had previously spotted in a corner of the room and put it on the opposite side of the rug from the tête-à-tête chair, placing on it a vase full of heavy-headed blooms. Standing back to contemplate the scene, he rubbed his chin, moved forward to remove two or three of the flowers from the vase, and laid them on the table. During the entire process, the princesses had been watching him work with great interest. After a few final tweaks, he appeared to be satisfied with the scene he had created, and turned to address Hadice.
“If your Imperial Highness would be so kind,” he said, “I would ask you to please stand between the seat and the table, and place your right hand on the curved back of the seat … Oh, and maybe your left hand might be placed behind your back.” Hadice did exactly as she was bidden. “Hmm … there is something missing. I wonder …” he mused, scratching his head just above the right ear and making the hair stick out beneath his fez. “A fan! Princess Hadice, do you have a fan? I think it would complete the portrait most satisfactorily if you were to hold a closed fan in your right hand as it rests on the back of the seat.” This was an item that it had not occurred to Hadice to bring with her: she looked across the room at her sister, who opened a narrow rectangular box that was lying on a nearby table – it bore her initials in swirling gold letters – and took out an ivory fan with a beautifully-carved ebony handle. Fehime then handed it triumphantly to her sister, who smiled at her in gratitude. “Perfect!” exclaimed Jean Pascal. “Now we are ready for Aslan Bey.” He placed a richly-embroidered cushion on the seat of the tête-à-tête chair, which was upholstered in red velvet, and Hadice called Aslan to her. The dog obediently jumped up onto the seat and sat on the cushion facing the photographer just as if he knew precisely what was expected of him. Everyone laughed, and this served to lighten the atmosphere in the room even further.
Hadice looked magnificent. Her thick dark hair framed her face in a loose pompadour bun; the simple cream dress she was wearing had a high neck and ruffled sleeves that fell to the top of her white gloves, while its sweeping train lay pooled in front of her. She had decided not to wear much jewellery as she wanted the Imperial Order that hung around her neck, and the Mecidiye Order pinned to her left breast, to stand out. Fehime thought she had never seen her sister looking more lovely or more dignified.
Jean Pascal wheeled his camera forward on the small wheels attached to the tripod legs; noticing how badly they creaked, he made a mental note to have them oiled as soon as he returned to the studio. He then made a slight adjustment to the camera’s angle, tilted the lens, and disappeared for a moment beneath the dark cloth draped over the camera box in order to view the inverted image. He brought the image into focus by adjusting the distance between the lens and the film plate, moving the folding leather bellows as though he was playing an accordion. When he reappeared, he was utterly dumbfounded to see that Hadice was unveiled: during the few seconds it had taken him to re-emerge from under the dark cloth, she had unpinned her yashmak and allowed it to float to the floor. Zeynel Ağa moved forward to pick up the discarded veil, his smooth, finely-chiselled face betraying nothing of what he might be thinking. Jean Pascal, meanwhile, looked thunderstruck, having been thrown completely off guard. Unlike the old eunuch, he was incapable of hiding his mental confusion.
“Jean Pascal Bey, I think you will need to hurry before Aslan tires of the pose,” Hadice said. Fehime giggled behind her hand. How she loved her sister, and how she admired her ready wit!
Jean Pascal now disappeared under the dark cloth for a second time – more to settle his nerves than to double-check the focus. Then, standing to attention beside his camera box, he squeezed the small air-pump ball that operated the shutter system and took the photograph. Neither Hadice nor Aslan had moved even a millimetre. He knew instantly that he had captured a perfect image.
Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.
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