Turkish Reflections: A Biography of a Place

Mary Lee Settle

Touchstone 1991
A book review by Danny Yee © 2010 https://dannyreviews.com/
Mary Lee Settle spent several years in south-western Turkey in the early 1970s, but in Turkish Reflections she describes her return to Turkey in 1989, when she spent some months travelling around the country.

It is a mix of travelogue, with descriptions of her travelling companions, her experiences and the people she meets, and historical information, with reflections on the complex intertwining of Turkish pasts and presents. There is also a scattering of linguistic, cultural and religious background. And all of this is melded with the skill of a novelist.

The travelogue aspects consist of short episodes which are entertaining and also provide insights into people and places. Settle never hides her own presence, but she doesn't dump personal information on us. There isn't room for any depth with the history, but she keeps her footing in an impressionistic treatment. Hittite, Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Republican histories all feature, but it is the Seljuk legacy which most fascinates her.

Settle has something of a mission in Turkish Reflections, openly trying to address the negative prejudices she sees Americans holding about Turkey, and sometimes this seems to colour her presentation. She ends, for example, with a secondhand anecdote about Turkish and American prisoners-of-war in Korea, rather distant from the rest of the book.

Turkish Reflections would be a good read for anyone planning to visit Turkey — or wanting to be convinced that they should. In my case, a large part of it covered locations I had just visited, where it offered a different perspective.

June 2010

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%T Turkish Reflections
%S A Biography of a Place
%A Settle, Mary Lee
%I Touchstone
%D 1991
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0671779974
%P 233pp