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Novel set on an island not far from ISTANBUL

6th October 2023

At The Breakfast Table by Defne Suman, novel set on an island not far from Istanbul (Büyükada Island).

TR: Betsy Göksel

Novel set on an island not far from ISTANBUL

This novel is set in 2017, looking back to earlier decades in the 20th Century.

Shirin Saka is an artist who is nearing her 100th birthday and family members arrive on the island to mark the milestone. Her offspring and their children arrive, together with friend and investigative journalist Burak to accompany them to island, in the hope he will use his skills to delve into the artist’s memory and elicit revelations, events he believes that are part and parcel of the fabric of Turkish history. These are secrets that go right back to WW1, significant in the development of the country.

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The story gradually unfolds from the perspective of several different characters, each with an individual voice. Shirin’s butler perhaps knows more of the history than he lets on. The only way that Shirin can respond is by painting and the reader gradually understands the depth of history and the ripple effect from past events that has worked its way through the family.

The story unfolds almost leisurely, with detailed descriptions that can meander around, and whilst adding texture and background, can at times feel like a distraction from the main thrust of the narrative. The feel of the island is beautifully evoked and the translation is smoothly executed by Betsy Göksel.

A different and informative novel that offers a backdrop to recent Turkish history.

Tina for the TripFiction Team


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  1. User: Louise

    Posted on: 06/10/2023 at 8:12 am

    Büyükada itself is one of my favourite Istanbul spots. Love getting the ferry across un the evening and picking one of the many seafood restaurants that line the waterfront. The museum of modern art in a former shopping terminal is also fab. Great view across the Bsophorus as long as a cruise ship hasn’t docked!


    1 Comment

    • User: Tina Hartas

      Posted on: 06/10/2023 at 4:32 pm

      How lovely to hear that you have actually been. I am sure this novel would transport you back to your visit!


  2. User: Sue Barton

    Posted on: 06/10/2023 at 7:41 am

    We visited but my husband was ill so we were unable to see things in detail. I would love to return and visit the Blue Mosque


    1 Comment

    • User: Tina Hartas

      Posted on: 06/10/2023 at 4:31 pm

      I hope you do get back… it’s been a while since I have been. Hope your husband recovered quickly!