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Halide's Gift: A Novel [Paperback]

Frances Kazan
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 10 2002
Set in Constantinople in the dying days of the Ottoman empire, Halide’s Gift is the story of a family with a secret, and a society in turbulent transition. At the heart of Frances Kazan’s beguiling novel are two sisters—one flamboyant and mischievous, the other shy and full of dreams—bound by an extraordinary friendship and torn apart by their love of radically different men. In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Halide’s Gift is an intimate portrait of a young woman of restrained passions and fiercely independent mind. A vibrant fusion of history and fiction, it tells the story of the legendary Halide Edib, the daughter of Sultan Abdulhamid’s first secretary, whose allegiance to the spiritual and traditional world of her mother and grandmother was destined to collide with the tantalizing promise of freedom.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

We can't go back to Constantinople, but in this fictionalized biography Halide Edib teaches us much about women's lives in that eastern metropolis at the turn of the century. Although didactic (a chunk of history is dropped abruptly into the middle), the book is not without interest in its forays into closely guarded harems, the large country houses of well-to-do Turkish families, the European quarter, and on a sadly contemporary note a camp for refugees from nationalist fighting in the Balkans. Halide Edib, daughter of a bureaucrat at the court of the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire, displays intellectual talent at an early age. After her mother's death, her European-leaning father sees to it that she receives a first-class education: first from her Circassian governess (later stepmother) Teyze and then as the first Turkish student at the American Girls College. Born into a Muslim family whose members pride themselves on being direct descendants of "Eyoub, the standard-bearer of the Prophet," Halide has inherited the family gift, an ability to hear the voices of the spirits of the dead. Her grandmother, who shares that gift, is firmly set in traditional ways and worries that Halide will lose her faith as she is exposed to Western influences. Devoted to the mystical poetry of the Sufis as well as to her growing ability to write English fiction, Halide attempts to walk the tightrope between West and East, even as she see others like her half-sister Mahmoure, who abandons her arranged marriage and her children for her lover (and Edib's former prot?g?), Riza come to grief in the attempt. This second novel (after Goodnight, Little Sisters) is old-fashioned and its style undistinguished; however, its portrayal of an Islamic world on the brink of change is carefully detailed and convincing. (July 3) FYI: Kazan is the wife of director Elia Kazan.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This fictional account of the life of Halide Edib is an initiation into nineteenth-century Turkey under Sultan Abdul Hamid--a world where women are uneducated, confined to harems, and required to accept polygamy. When her mother dies, little Halide is cared for by a devoted Muslim grandmother, who nurtures the child's gift of hearing and seeing the dead, an endowment that has passed to every woman in her mother's line of descent. Despite his position as first secretary to the sultan, Halide's father rejects social conformity and frees his daughter from the bondage of illiteracy by defying the edicts of the sultan and sending her to the American school for girls, where she becomes one of the first formally educated Turkish women in history. Kazan has written a politically intriguing and uniquely stylized novel with a subject matter that is refreshingly untrodden. A master of Turkish studies, she conveys this story with the mystique of billowing incense. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
This is only a brief note for now, because I am so excited about "Frances'Gift To Me" that I just can not wait until I have to a bit more time to write an in-depth review of her work.

So, two days later, here I am, back with more.
Firstly, unlike another reviewer who faulted Ms. Kazan's writing style, I found her style pleasant and fluent. Second, her knowledge about Turkey is more than sufficient, but open-minded as well.
My only gripe is that this book is too short! Or perhaps she has Part II, The Sequel, in the pipeline?
I grew up in Turkey, in the 1960s, and Halide Edip Adivar was one of my favorite Turkish woman writers. Halide Edip was a great woman, and a great writer, an enlightened leader, woefully forgotten in the West, and a virtual unknown in the United States.
So, Ms. Kazan has given me a personal gift by (obviously) liking and respecting Halide, and penning this eminently legible, interesting novel based upon her life, better said, her formative years.

Herewith I am issuing a public plea to Frances Kazan to return to her writing desk and produce the Sequel, beginning with Halide Edip Adivar's courageous stand by Mustafa Kemal, the Founder of Modern Turkey.
Meanwhile, gentle reader, let me repeat with all my heart that HALIDE'S GIFT is excellent reading based upon an intriguing, worthy subject.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but ultimately disappointing Nov. 7 2002
The beginning of Halide's Gift was quite promising; the death of Selima, Edib's finding of another man's picture in his dead wife's locket, the mystery of Halide's sister Mahmoure, and her relationship with Riza, Halide's ability to see and hear the dead ... there were a lot of interesting little undeveloped plots that kept me reading. However, as the book continued, it didn't seem to develop in line with the expectations I had for it. Halide seems to be the least interesting character in the novel, and I think she would have been more interesting if Kazan had told the story more from Halide's point of view. I got no deep sense of Halide's faith or her inner strength. Since she did tell the story in the third person, I wished that there had been greater development of characters other than Halide. These other characters--Granny, Mahmoure, Edib, and particularly Teyze--actually seem much more interesting than Halide herself, but Kazan doesn't develop these characters to any satisfying extent. She touches on them just enough to make me wonder what makes them tick. I got the feeling that she didn't "know" them well enough (particularly Edib) to delve into the meanings behind their motivations and actions and to write them to be more believable. Also, it's almost as if she has so many characters and so many small plots going on that she can't do justice to any single one.
I also found the title to be a bit of a misnomer. Halide's "gift" is an ability to see (and communicate?) with the dead that later manifests itself in an ability to write arresting fiction. This "gift," however, is a very minor part of the story, and it seemed weird that the entire novel would be named for it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Painful to read Dec 14 2001
By A Customer
The cover illustration is beautiful and the description on the front flap said Halide has "the power to see and commune with the spirits of the dead". Very intriguing -- but the novel doesn't live up to the promise.
Most of the time the sentence structure is disappointingly basic: subject+verb+object, over and over and over again until I wanted to scream. Other times,the sentences bordered on just plain wierd. For example, who wants to read a sentence like this: "When he moved, his body undulated as if devoid of bones"? Yuk. A good novel develops a cadence to lull the reader past the writing and into the plot. This one didn't.
Almost worse than the bad writing was the lack of feeling for the setting. I never get a feel for what it's like to *be* in the Ottoman empire. I don't know anything more about the women's quarters, where Halide spent much of her time, or the public market.
But most depressing is the fact that Halide never "communicated with the dead" at all. Exactly twice she thought she saw something ethereal but dismissed it. Absolutely no time at all is spent discribing her "gift".
What a waste of paper.
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Halide Edib Adivar (Halide is pronounced ha-lee-DAE; not ha-LEED ...) was one of the most important writers of modern Turkey's first decades. She wrote about two dozen novels that helped consolidate modern Turkish literature. She also was a very interesting political personality. Though a fierce nationalist, she defended pluralistic multi-party democracy, gender equality, and closer, stronger Turkish-American relations, even when these goals were not fully shared by the powers that be in Turkey. Although an admirer of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, she had the courage and the integrity to oppose him when she thought he was wrong.
It is commendable that Mrs. Kazan intorduces this author to the English-speaking public. She chose to do that through a semi-biographical novel, and a quite well-written one at that, but she concentrated on Halide's youth, not on the years when she shone and achieved her greatest accomplishments.
This, however, is not the problem with the novel. What is wrong with his novel is that the author has only a superficial knowledge of the Turkish culture, and what is worse, a superficial knowledge of the Turkish language.
That is dismaying, given the fact that Frances Kazan has an MA in Turkish Studies from NYU. The Turkish Studies professors at NYU apparently have not done a very good job.
...If one is able to overlook this problem, however, the book is worth reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Halide's Gift-Excellent book
I really enjoyed the book. When I wasn't reading it, it was still in my mined and I couldn't wait for the next time to read it again and see what is happening. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2005 by Nadija
2.0 out of 5 stars Not The Greatest
This was not the book I expected. Its plot is weak and its characters were poorly developed. The plot holds together in a rag-tag sort of way, but there are a lot of small... Read more
Published on May 1 2003 by Kyle
1.0 out of 5 stars What Gift?
A richer, fuller story could have been told by a better writer. All of the characters and settings required for a great story are here, but the narritive left me wanting more. Ms. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2003 by Melinda Lucas
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I expected but still a good read
I agree with those who say that this book didn't really match its description. I thought it was going to be more in the vein of "magical realism" (like Gabriel Garcia... Read more
Published on April 2 2002 by A. Marcoff
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for taking me on an incredible journey
I loved this book and felt that Mrs Kazan gently opened
a new window to me, to a culture, time, and people far away yet in some ways in terms of the heroine of the book very... Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2002 by "denver_girl"
4.0 out of 5 stars Congratulations, Mrs. Kazan!
This book was written by someone who cares deeply about women's rights and their lack in Ottoman Turkey at the turn of the century. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading about a forgotten time and a place
This is a must read about one of the heroine's of
the newly formed Republic of Turkey. Beautiful cover
and a book by Frances Kazan, wife of American-Armenian... Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Well-Written Women Characters? This is for You!
If you like to read about strong, well-written women characters, you'll like this book. Yes, the author could get more detailed about the Ottoman lifestyle but let's remember this... Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in Istanbul during the last years of the Ottoman Empire
This book that was written by an American (Mrs. Frances Kazan) gives a very accurate picture of the daily life in Istanbul during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Read more
Published on July 30 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Story of Late Nineteenth Century Ottoman Life
This fictionalized account of the famous Turkish author and nationalist Halide Edip Adivar transports you to the closing days of the Ottoman Empire with its clashing European and... Read more
Published on July 22 2001 by Fuat C. Baran
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