Train to Istanbul is the story of the daughters of Fazıl Reşat Paşa, Selva and Sabiha; members of a prominent Muslim Turkish aristocracy. Set in the Second World War, it simultaneously explores the transformation of the Turkish society to a modern one and the descent of humanity to its very basic animalistic else where. Here selva is the rebel, marrying a Jew, Sabina the conformist living the high socialite life, Paşa the father caught between his prejudices and his modern preaching, and as in all stories of the Second World War, Nazi’s are the villains.
The book starts off with a brisk pace, setting stages, characters and their motivations; in short there is so much promise and potential in the first several chapters, it’s almost reminiscent of the great classics. But unfortunately the author shies away at the first sign of a conflict, almost glossing over the very core principles that motivates it’s characters. This pretty much deflates the story, either the author deliberately chose to restrict herself or an editor got it out with a chain saw .
What I found most disappointing in the book is not the story, but the authors unwillingness to delve deeper into the emotions and motivations of her characters; ofter rendering them to be flat, delusional and plain unreasonable at times. It is quite clear that the author was in some sense in a hurry, especially in the later chapters she rams through the story, wrecking its very basic elements, even to the extend of causing a dramatic escape from the nazi occupied France to feel like like a fun joy ride.
In short, its a good read, light and hearty, but its not the best of Turkish literature, Ayşe Kulin has much promise but the Last Train to Istanbul is not her seminal work by any measure. In Verdict; I give Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin a 2 out 5, there are better books out there to spend you time with.