The Oracle of Stamboul: A Novel

The Oracle of Stamboul: A Novel

by Michael David Lukas

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Overview

Set in the heart of the exotic Ottoman Empire during the first years of its chaotic decline, Michael David Lukas’ elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel follows a gifted young girl who dares to charm a sultan—and change the course of history, for the empire and the world. An enthralling literary adventure, perfect for readers entranced by the mixture of historical fiction and magical realism in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, or Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Lukas’ evocative tale of prophesy, intrigue, and courage unfolds with the subtlety of a Turkish mosaic and the powerful majesty of an epic for the ages.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062085436
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/08/2011
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 53,181
File size: 819 KB

About the Author

MICHAEL DAVID LUKAS has been a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv and a Rotary scholar in Tunisia. He is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, and his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler and the Georgia Review. Lukas lives in Oakland, California, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn’t writing,he teaches creative writing to third- and fourth-graders. Visit him online at www.michaeldavidlukas.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Oracle of Stamboul

A Novel
By Michael David Lukas

HarperCollins

Copyright © 2011 Michael David Lukas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-201209-8


Chapter One

Eleonora Cohen came into this world on a Thursday, late in the summer of 1877. Those who rose early that morning would recall noticing a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes circling above the harbor, looping and darting about as if in an attempt to mend a tear in the firmament. Whether or not they were successful, the birds eventually slowed their swoop and settled in around the city, on the steps of the courthouse, the red tile roof of the Constanta Hotel, and the bell tower atop St. Basil's Academy. They roosted in the lantern room of the lighthouse, the octagonal stone minaret of the mosque, and the forward deck of a steamer coughing puffs of smoke into an otherwise clear horizon. Hoopoes coated the town like frosting, piped in along the rain gutters of the governor's mansion and slathered on the gilt dome of the Orthodox church. In the trees around Yakob and Leah Cohen's house the flock seemed especially excited, chattering, flapping their wings, and hopping from branch to branch like a crowd of peasants lining the streets of the capital for an imperial parade. The hoopoes would probably have been regarded as an auspicious sign, were it not for the unfortunate events that coincided with Eleonora's birth.

Early that morning, the Third Division of Tsar Alexander II's Royal Cavalry rode in from the north and assembled on a hilltop overlooking the town square: 612 men, 537 horses, three cannons, two dozen dull gray canvas tents, a field kitchen, and the yellow-and-black-striped standard of the tsar. They had been riding for the better part of a fortnight with reduced rations and little rest, through Kiliya, Tulcea, and Babadag, the blueberry marshlands of the Danube Delta, and vast wheat fields left fallow since winter. Their ultimate objective was Pleven, a trading post in the bosom of the Danubian Plain where General Osman Pasha and seven thousand Ottoman troops were attempting to make a stand. It would be an important battle, perhaps even a turning point in the war, but Pleven was still ten days off and the men of the Third Division were restless.

Laid out below them like a feast, Constanta had been left almost entirely without defenses. Not more than a dozen meters from the edge of the hilltop lay the rubble of an ancient Roman wall. In centuries past, these dull, rose-colored stones had protected the city from wild boars, bandits, and the Thracian barbarians who periodically attempted to raid the port. Rebuilt twice by Rome and once again by the Byzantines, the wall was in complete disrepair when the Ottomans arrived in Constanta at the end of the fifteenth century. And so it was left to crumble, its better stones carted off to build roads, palaces, and other walls around other, more strategic cities. Had anyone thought to restore the wall, it might have shielded the city from the brutality of the Third Division, but in its current state it was little more than a stumbling block.

All that morning and late into the afternoon, the men of the Third Division rode rampant through the streets of Constanta, breaking shop windows, terrorizing stray dogs, and pulling down whatever statues they could find. They torched the governor's mansion, ransacked the courthouse, and shattered the stained glass above the entrance to St. Basil's Academy. The goldsmith's was gutted, the cobbler's picked clean, and the dry-goods store strewn with broken eggs and tea. They shattered the front window of Yakob Cohen's carpet shop and punched holes in the wall with their bayonets. Apart from the Orthodox church, which at the end of the day stood untouched, as if God himself had protected it, the library was the only municipal building that survived the Third Division unscathed. Not because of any special regard for knowledge. The survival of Constanta's library was due entirely to the bravery of its keeper. While the rest of the towns people cowered under their beds or huddled together in basements and closets, the librarian stood boldly on the front steps of his domain, holding a battered copy of Eugene Onegin above his head like a talisman. Although they were almost exclusively illiterate, the men of the Third Division could recognize the shape of their native Cyrillic and that, apparently, was enough for them to spare the building.

Meanwhile, in a small gray stone house near the top of East Hill, Leah Cohen was heavy in the throes of labor. The living room smelled of witch hazel, alcohol, and sweat. The linen chest was thrown open and a pile of iodine-stained bedsheets lay on the table. Because the town's sole trained physician was otherwise disposed, Leah was attended by a pair of Tartar midwives who lived in a village nearby. Providence had brought them to the Cohens' doorstep at the moment they were needed most. They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the north star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy, they said, that their last king had given on his deathwatch, but there was no time to explain. They asked to be shown to the bedroom. They asked for clean sheets, alcohol, and boiling water. Then they closed the door behind them. Every twenty minutes or so, the younger of the two scuttled out with an empty pot or an armful of soiled sheets. Apart from these brief forays, the door remained closed.

With nothing for him to do and nothing else to occupy his mind, Leah's husband, Yakob, gave himself over to worry. A large man with unruly black hair and bright blue eyes, he busied himself tugging at the ends of his beard, shuffling his receipts, and packing his pipe.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas Copyright © 2011 by Michael David Lukas. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Reif Larsen

“A stunning debut . . . Lukas has managed to create an instant classic that feels as if it should be retroactively slipped into the great libraries of the old world.”

Siobhan Fallon

“An enchanting, gorgeous read . . . Lukas captures the scents and sounds, the vivid beauty, the subtle intrigue and simultaneous naivety, of the Ottoman Empire unaware of its imminent demise.”

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The Oracle of Stamboul 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
It was the beginning of the end for the Great Ottoman Empire. There were the obvious signs of civil unrest and international conflicts and there were more subtle signs in clandestine meetings and passed information. And it was during these troubling times when Elenora Cohen made her way into the world, it was on a Thursday while troops gathered on a hill and a flock of Hoopoes flitted about. It was not without tragedy that she did so as her mother died giving birth to her. She was attended to by her devoted father Yakob and her mother's midwives until the arrival of her mother's older unwed sister who would go on to become not only her aunt but her stepmother as well. Elenora had a relatively normal childhood and yet it soon became apparent that she was not a normal little girl as she possessed an uncommon intelligence and sponge like intellect and a somewhat mystical nature as well. This somewhat magical, mystical and enchanted little girl starts the journey of her life under a troubling star that will take her to the seat of the Empire and to it's leader as well. But what will come of her, will she go on to great things and shine like the sun or will she go down like a burning nova. Open the pages of this multidimensional and eclectic read and find out. Michael David Lukas brings us his debut novel with a plot that's as diverse as the Ottoman Empire was at the end of the Nineteenth Century when his tale takes place with a story line ranging from politics to mysticism. He brings us this with a dialogue that combines prose, everyday narrative and at times militaristic jargon which mostly has a fluent feel to it. I did however find the fluency chopped up a bit at times by a bit of wordiness and although this happens it did not diminish my enjoyment of the read. His characters are the stars and they do shine from the stuffy Ruxandra, to the loving Yakob to the patient Moncef Bey and finally the Sultan himself and his mother, and Mr. Lukas takes his time with each of these characters so we readers get their full effect. This read is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a real piece of literary fiction with enough history to satisfy the student, enough imagery to satisfy the dreamer, and enough occult to satisfy the mystic then you will love this.
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elbakerone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas is a picturesque historical fiction set around the Ottoman Empire in 1877 at the brink of the Russo-Turkish War. The book centers around a young girl, Elenora Cohen, whose birth is marked by strange signs and prophecies. A flock of purple and white hoopoes take up residence near her house marking her as unique even before she develops reading and writing skills at a young age showing her to be a prodigy. Her father, a carpet merchant, dotes on her and when he sets off for Stamboul, Elenora stows away on his boat. Arriving in the city, and entering the home of her father's wealthy business partner Moncef Bey, Elenora is swept up in the world around her and her remarkable talents soon catch the eye of the Sultan himself.I really liked the scenery and the historical setting of this novel, but I was expecting a little more depth to the characters and more development of the intrigue in the plot. I loved that the story focused on Elenora but the mysterious aspects of her birth were never explained or fully developed. I also liked the interaction between Elenora and the Sultan, but again, I wish their relationship had been given more time to expand. I was really drawn into the stories of the supporting characters - Moncef Bey and Elenora's tutor Reverend Muehler - as well. Lukas did a nice job weaving their subplots into the main story and I was very intrigued by them both. While there were things I wish had been done differently, I still rather enjoyed this book. The writing was well done and it is a fast paced story. The Ottoman Empire was a unique setting, as it seems rarely chosen in historical fiction works, and I enjoyed the details of the political climate and the pictures of Turkish life. As a debut novel, The Oracle of Stamboul was definitely a book that will have me remembering Michael David Lukas' name for seeking out his future works.
BrokenTeepee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this magical tale you will meet Eleonora, born on a night of violence in the presence of two Tartar midwives. A mysterious flock of hoopoes in an unusual coloring arrive and roost in the tree outside of her house. The flock follows her everywhere. As she grows she proves to be exceptionally intelligent and is considered a savant. But that is dangerous in the small town where she lives. She also feels constrained by her stepmother/aunt - she wants to see more of the world so when her father is leaving for a trip to Stamboul she stows away on the boat.This is a truly wonderful tale of a young woman far ahead of her time. Once you start reading you will find it is very hard to put the book down. You are drawn into the world of an Ottoman empire that is slowly crumbling around the feet of a Sultan who knows what he wants to do but receives very bad advice from his advisers. Mr. Lukas takes historical fact and injects his fictional character to create a world of "what might have been" to great effect. The mystical feeling of the East is felt in the descriptions of Stamboul and I felt as if I were there. Eleonora is a truly unique character and she goes through her life doing what she thinks is best - she is written and appears to be much, much older than her eight years. But it somehow seems right given the early development of the character. This is another book I will keep to read again for I feel that on a second reading I will pick up many details that I missed on a first. Books like this are to be read again and savored.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found myself completely enchanted by Eleonora in The Oracle of Stamboul. Although I had seen this book numerous times in the bookstores I¿d visited, I¿d never taken the time to actually read what it was about, satisfied with just a passing glance at the gorgeous cover.Last night I opened up the book and was fully unprepared for the beautiful, magical world that filled my thoughts and teased my senses. I could smell, taste, feel, hear and experience the world Eleonora was born into and then further journeyed to see more of. It was so fantastic.I identified with Eleonora, with her love of the novel, her eagerness to learn. I commiserated with her at the agony of only having one novel a month to read and followed her journey through the classics with excitement.All the ingredients come together to form this fantastic, magical, mythical type of novel that had me thoroughly in its thrall¿ until the end. While I still dislike the ending of the book, I can understand it was a necessary evil ¿ because I have no idea how it would have ended otherwise. Still, there was a sense of loss and abruptness and that alone affects my rating of the book and my overall view of it. While the journey was magical, the ending cast it all into a different light.Still, I recommend this book ¿ especially for those who love books that will draw them in and fully immerse them in the story and place. It does such a wonderful job of that that it¿s a surprise when those last few pages come up.
melaniehope on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I first received this book, I thought the cover looked great. I could not wait to get started. The story begins late in the summer of 1877. Eleonora Cohen is born into the world amidst signs all pointing to an ancient prophecy. Although her mother dies soon after, she is raised by her father and step-mother who both realize that Eleonora has a rare and extraordinary gift for learning way beyond a child of her years. Encouraged by her father, but severely reprimanded by her step-mother, Eleonora, now eight years old, is told to keep her gifts hidden.When she finds out that her father will be going to Stamboul for business, Eleonora stows away in one of his trunks. She reveals herself only at the end of the trip. She and her father stay with Moncef Bey, her father's business partner. After another tragedy, Eleonora finds herself staying longer than expected with Moncef Bey. He hires a tutor for her, an American minister, who just may be a spy. Later Eleonora again finds herself in a strange situation when she is introduced to Sultan Abdulhamid, who is searching for assistance in figuring out who is a friend or foe. Will Eleonora be able to give him the answers he is seeking?From the moment I opened the book and read the first few pages, I was in love with this story. The writing was beautiful and transported me to ancient Istanbul. I loved the descriptions, the characters and the mystery and magic surrounding the plot.But then the other day someone asked me what book I was reading. I told them the title and they wanted to know what it was about. I found that I really did not know how to answer that question. Besides the synopsis above, nothing else really happened.I felt like the book kept leading me to greater and greater mystery, but then it felt like nothing ever developed. I kept getting closer and closer to the ending wondering when the author was going to tie up all these loose ends. And then the story just ended....just like that. This story has such AMAZING potential and I began it thinking I would give it a 5 star rating because the writing was so lovely to read. But there was way too much that happened in the book that were never resolved. We never found out more about the American minister. Why was such an emphasis placed on the the prophecy surrounding Eleonora's birth and then nothing more about it later? We could have learned so much more about the characters. I wish we could have had more of a glimpse into Eleonora's plan at the end of the book. I felt like the author had a fantastic beginning of a story, was just starting a plot, never finished it and then just rushed an ending that was really a disappointment. While I am happy to have won it and read it, I just can not recommend it without warning readers that the author did not seem to finish what he started.
EpicTale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this well-written, evocative historical fantasy about a gifted girl's childhood in 1880s Istanbul. Lukas carefully and vividly paints a picture of the Ottoman Empire in its waning days, and populates it with well-drawn and sympathetic characters. I admired the care and craft that Lukas lavished on the book's elegant, evocative -- but not overdone or ponderous -- prose as well as the plausibility of the characters and the thoughts and concerns that motivated them to act as they did. For me, The Oracle of Stamboul was a worthwhile and relaxed screened-porch-rockingchair-with-wineglass-in-hand summertime book. I enjoyed it for some of the same reasons I liked Peter Carey's "Parrot and Olivier in America". Lukas is a solid writer and vivid dreamer, whose future works I will be looking for.
bookaholicmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the summer of 1877, a child is born and many mysterious things happen during her birth. First, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes which are a type of bird arrive. Then just as mysteriously, a pair of special midwives appears to deliver her. After the child, Eleonora is born her mother dies. Eleonora is raised by her doting father, Yakob and her not so loving step-mother, Ruxandra. As Eleonora grows she is found to be a genius. Yakob must leave on business for Stamboul. This is more than Eleonora can bear so she becomes a stowaway on the ship which is carrying her father. Once she arrives in Stamboul, Eleonora's life takes a big change. She lives in the home of her father's business partner, Moncef Bey. I had many questions and concerns about this man's intentions. Then we add in Eleonora's tutor, Reverend Muehler, who may or may not be a spy. But what or who is he spying on? It seems like everyone wants to keep Eleonora close to them as they know she is special. I adored this little girl and at times felt so sorry for her. At every turn there is more mystery and intrigue. The story is an intricate puzzle that at times moves rather slowly. I did however love the author's prose. It was as magical as the story itself. I was glad that I stuck with the story even when it slowed down. The symbolism in the story beautifully written. Usually I miss connections like that in a book but in this one I was able to savor it. Stamboul made for a very interesting setting, one that I am not all that familiar with. I love going to new places and times when reading a book. This book is beautifully published and I would recommend reading the actual book and not the e-book. The pages have a beautiful feel to them which added to the pleasure of reading this book. It almost had an antique feel to it. This is a wonderful debut book that will leave you thinking about this book and this little girl for quite some time.
dhaupt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was the beginning of the end for the Great Ottoman Empire. There were the obvious signs of civil unrest and international conflicts and there were more subtle signs in clandestine meetings and passed information. And it was during these troubling times when Elenora Cohen made her way into the world, it was on a Thursday while troops gathered on a hill and a flock of Hoopoes flitted about. It was not without tragedy that she did so as her mother died giving birth to her. She was attended to by her devoted father Yakob and her mother¿s midwives until the arrival of her mother¿s older unwed sister who would go on to become not only her aunt but her stepmother as well. Elenora had a relatively normal childhood and yet it soon became apparent that she was not a normal little girl as she possessed an uncommon intelligence and sponge like intellect and a somewhat mystical nature as well. This somewhat magical, mystical and enchanted little girl starts the journey of her life under a troubling star that will take her to the seat of the Empire and to it¿s leader as well. But what will come of her, will she go on to great things and shine like the sun or will she go down like a burning nova. Open the pages of this multidimensional and eclectic read and find out.Michael David Lukas brings us his debut novel with a plot that¿s as diverse as the Ottoman Empire was at the end of the Nineteenth Century when his tale takes place with a story line ranging from politics to mysticism. He brings us this with a dialogue that combines prose, everyday narrative and at times militaristic jargon which mostly has a fluent feel to it. I did however find the fluency chopped up a bit at times by a bit of wordiness and although this happens it did not diminish my enjoyment of the read. His characters are the stars and they do shine from the stuffy Ruxandra, to the loving Yakob to the patient Moncef Bey and finally the Sultan himself and his mother, and Mr. Lukas takes his time with each of these characters so we readers get their full effect. This read is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a real piece of literary fiction with enough history to satisfy the student, enough imagery to satisfy the dreamer, and enough occult to satisfy the mystic then you will love this.
bookwoman247 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Briefly, The Oracle of Stamboul is about a very intelligent, very precocious , gifted young Jewish girl of the Ottoman Empire, whose birth is heralded by a flock of purple hoopoe birds.Eleonor's mother dies, as a result of childbirth. Eleonor's father is a rug merchant, and when he decides to travel to Stamboul in the hopes of selling more carpets, 8-yr-old Eleonor, not wanting to be left in the hands of an uncaring setp-mother, and not wanting to experience the loneliness of separation from her loving father, stows away on the ship that is taking him to Stamboul.In Stamboul, her father is killed, and she becomes the ward of her father's business partner, an important, wealthy man, Monef Bey.Her gifts and intelligence bring her to the notice of the Sultan, and she becomes his trusted advisor, much to the disdain of many in the palace.I enjoyed this, but perhaps not as much as I'd hoped.
allisonmacias on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eleanora, a beautiful and intelligent girl, is born under auspicious occasions. She is delivered by two tartar midwives who tell her father about a prophecy. Unfortunately, they also tell her father of the loss of his wife. Eleanora grows up being raised by her doting and loving father and her unkind stepmother/aunt. From an early age, Eleanora proves to be a gifted child and loves to learn. But her stepmother/aunt refuses, and teaches her instead to be a housekeeper. When faced with a month long separation from her father, Eleanora stowes away on a ship and joins her father in Stamboul. There, life and death await. Her father is killed in an accident, and Elanaora becomes a ward of her father's host. Bey, a kind man, takes her in and hires a tutor for her. Her tutor notices her great mind, and recommends her to the Sultan.This book reminds me a lot of Atonement. The author is meticulous in his detailed account. Eleanora was a great character, and the Sultan was intriguing. This is a good book. I would recommend it.I won this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.
jcwlib on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I first read the description of this book I was intrigued by the time period and the mystery around Eleonora. I definitely got entranced in this book while reading during my commute (almost missed my stop twice!). Each character within the book had a different relationship with Eleonora. Eleonora's reaction to her father's death was reasonable, but thought that after weeks of no talking either The Bey or Mrs. Damakan would have curtailed this behavior.It was refreshing to see that within the Ottoman Empire there was the same push and pull within the royalty and their advisers as other empires. I'm not terribly familiar with the Ottoman Empire so it's hard to tell if this detail is part of the history or fiction. I was a tad disappointed that Eleonora really only advised the Sultan on one issue. To me the premise of impacting history meant advising on multiple situations.The plot line with the American professor was a little strange and out of place and I could never figure out what his end goal was tutoring Eleonora. Loved the uncertainty and uneasiness surrounding Eleonora's gift and cultural heritage which just added to the political turmoil of the time period.
khiemstra631 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First-time author Michael David Lukas has written a wonderful novel set in Istamboul in the late 1800's. Centered on the life of child prodigy/savant Eleanora Cohen, the book's plot offers several unexpected twists and turns. Eleanora is eight-years-old but manages to become an adviser to the Sultan of Stamboul, although not of her own volition. This is a wonderful book and not to be missed. I can't wait to see what the author will do to top this one!
readingdate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a sweet story that is a historical fiction mixed in with magical and humorous elements. It reads like a fairy tale. The heroine Eleonora is fascinating as the child prodigy and her character is what drew me in to the book.The writing flows smoothly and I was quickly caught up in the story. The descriptively beautiful writing transports you to another place and time with a mysterious air. Although this is a historical fiction, the plot still feels current and relevant. I read the book without knowledge of the history of the Ottoman Empire, and that did not hinder my enjoyment.Eleonora appealed to me with her love of books, inquisitive nature and talent of communicating with animals. She is such an intelligent and poised main character that it is easy to forget she is just a child. I would love to follow her adventures in further books; she is such an interesting character. I was happy for her when she got away from her stifling surroundings and her stepmother and into a new home where her talents were appreciated.In addition to Eleonora, we are introduced to her father, Yakob, a carpet salesman, and the evil stepmother Ruxandra. Eleonora stays in Stamboul with Moncef Bay, a kind and wealthy bachelor with a secret past. Through Eleonora¿s tutor she is brought to the attention of the Sultan. Eleonora¿s travels take her from the Turkish markets to the Sultan¿s palace. The sights, sounds, smells and foods are vividly described and make you feel as if you are there.This book should appeal to those interested in history or that appreciate historical fiction, and those that read literature. Readers of young adult fiction may also enjoy this story and relate to Eleonora and the questions and tragedies she faces in her life. The Oracle of Stamboul is a charming debut and I would be interested in reading more from this author.
Enamoredsoul on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Oracle of Stamboul" by Michael David Lukas is not just a novel, it is a literary portal that transports you to the streets of Turkey in the late 1800's. And while you are there, Michael David Lukas takes you on a magical journey - with his beautiful prose, he builds the city around you, surrounds you with the smell of its spices, and the warmth of its people. It is this particular quality in Lukas' writing that really gives this novel its edge. Eleanora Cohen is born to Yakob Cohen on a tragic day in Constanta. The Ottoman Empire is coming an end, and two ladies who assist her birth claim that her birth was predicted by the last Tartar king, and that they had followed the signs to their home. Losing her mother on her birthday, little Ellie is raised by her loving and devoted father, and her cold and disciplinarian aunt, who ends up marrying her father. As Ellie grows, it is apparent to anyone that crosses paths with her, that she is an exceptional child - in a way that is beyond their comprehension. And it is due to her nature, that she is kept at bay from the world. But when Ellie's father leaves for Stamboul on business, Ellie cannot stand to live in her house with her frigid aunt, and escapes in one of his carpet trunks, and finds herself on board the same streamer as her father a stowaway. It is in Stamboul that Ellie truly flourishes, and finds herself immersed in a world of knowledge and literature. She learns to speak various languages, memorizes passages from books by heart with much ease, and breaks ciphers and codes with even more ease. It is due to talents such as this, and her pack of hoopoes, along with the prophecies that surround her birth that bring her to the attention of the then king, Sultan Abdulhamid II. Upon meeting little Ellie, the Sultan is immediately impressed by her knowledge and mannerisms, and despite oppositions from his Vizier and his own mother, he heeds her advice. It is due to her advice that he breaks ties with Germany, and the Kaiser. Unfortunately, for Ellie, these turn of events come under scrutiny by an American reporter, and her Ellie is soon more famous than she cares to be. Will Ellie be able to handle the pressure that being an Oracle brings her? Will she become the Sultan's advisor in court? Or will she become a beloved Oracle to all of the world? Michael David Lukas' "The Oracle of Stamboul" is an enchanting and fascinating read, full of magical realism and written in lilting prose, this book impresses from the first chapter to it's last. Also, for those who may not be sure about its significance, hidden under the layers of beauty, fantasy and magic is a bit of truly magnificent history - a turn of events which, had they not come to pass, could very well have resulted in an entirely different world today. Eleanora, although a child, will astound you with her curiosity, maturity and humility and "The Oracle of Stamboul" will coccoon you into its world, and leave you breathless with the many beautiful views of Turkey.
verka6811 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the end of the Ottoman Empire, a young girl, whose birth was predicted by the last Tartar King, holds the power to set history on the right path. Born to a Jewish carper merchant, Eleanora Cohen is as brilliant as she is devoted to her father. She follows him to Stamboul where she catches the attention of the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdulhamid II. The Sultan is amazed at Eleanora's vast knowledge at such an early age, and invites her to visit the palace. Sultan accepts Eleanora's advice on political matters, and to her dismay, Sultan's attention is noticed by an American reporter. Before she knows it, Eleanora is propelled into infamy, one she is not so sure she's ready to handle. Michael David Lukas' The Oracle of Stamboul is fascinating and enchanting, a beautiful glimpse into a world where prophesies are real, and massive empires vie for power while bowing down at the feet of a little girl. The Oracle of Stamboul has been described as an instant classic, and I can definitely see why. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book broke every expectation that I had. It was wonderful. I could not put it down. I found many magical realism elements, which were wonderfully woven into the story. The ending was a complete shock.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
StacieRosePittard More than 1 year ago
I was generally pleased with the novel. Although I wasn't necessarily glued to the pages out of excitement and wonder, it was completely natural to spend hours upon hours curled up with this book, and I finished it rather quickly (without really meaning to). The author's writing style is better than most people of our time, and I was very impressed to see that this was his first novel. There were a couple of complaints that I had with the book, though nothing that really made me dislike it (more like afterthoughts once the book was finished). Aside from bland characters, the biggest complaint I have is that the author didn't do enough of a job in presenting the history and culture of the Ottoman Empire. What's irritating about this is that while reading, I got the impression that that was his purpose for writing the book. After finishing, I read over the interview with the author, and he himself confirmed this. This was a major failure which easily could have been avoided. Instead, he made a rather silly mistake in that he created a protagonist who locked herself up in a house, rather than choosing to explore the culture around her. I could have learned a lot more about the Ottoman Empire, had the main character had more time outside of her residence.