From Publishers Weekly
The Ottoman Empire, known as the "sick man of Europe" in the 19th century, continues its slow, steady decline in the summer of 1899 as elderly Iskander Pasha (a descendant of a sultan's favorite courtier) and his well-born family gather at their seaside palace outside Istanbul. Ali, a well-known leftist activist in Britain, explores the complexities of the Ottoman mentality in his fifth outing, a colorful, sensual drama of families, sexual intrigue and rebellion. As the novel begins, Iskander suffers a stroke and loses his power of speech. Various members of the family tell their stories, interwoven with chapters transcribing confessions made to the "stone woman," a rock formation on the estate. Iskander has four children: Salman, the eldest son; Halil, a general in the army; Nilofer, the daughter whose dramatic life is most fully explored; and her married stepsister, Zeynep. Memed, Iskander's elder brother, and his lover, the Baron, also join the family. The plot coheres neatly as the stories interconnect: Nilofer married a Greek schoolteacher for whom her love cooled, leaving her miserable; when her husband is murdered, a victim of anti-Greek violence, she pursues a love affair with a barber's son. Salman is also unhappily married, to a woman in Egypt who turns against him with an almost psychopathic violence. Halil conspires with other generals in the army to overthrow the Ottoman government. The Baron, a trained Hegelian scholar, holds forth, pedantically, on the roots of Ottoman decay. Ali's epic combines the luxuriant pacing of the old-fashioned novel of ideas with the 20th-century relish for sexual detail to conjure up an almost Chekhovian milieu.
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“... an Eastern Magic Mountain.
”—London Review of Books
“A richly woven tapestry that, even before its completion, merits comparison with Naguib Mahfouz's celebrated Cairo Trilogy.
A great work in progress.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Ali spins a web of tales that is as inventive and fantastical as the Arabian nights.”—The Times
“Tales of anguish, longing, lust and love all find their way to The Stone Woman
. Ali paints a vivid picture of a fading world.”—New York Times Book Review
“This Chekhov-like scenario of intense emotion within a creaking social structure constructs a rich picture of history and the way we think about history.”—Times Literary Supplement