By: Alev Lytle Croutier
Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Historic Fiction- Family Love
Seven Houses chronicles the lives of four generations of remarkable women, sweeping readers from the last days of the Ottoman monarchy to Turkey’s transformation into a republic and the present-day backlash.
After reading and rather enjoying Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul, I thought I would try another Turkish author, Alev Croutier. Comparing both women as author’s I would have to say that Elif’s writing is more captivating but nevertheless, Alev puts up a good fight.
This book documents the lives of four generations of women through the last four ever-changing generations of Turkish history. The story is told by the point-of-view of the houses in which these women lived in and the behind-the-scenes events that unfolded within the walls. I think this works beautifully as this allows the women’s family history to be woven together. The setting is also rather perfect: the beginning of WWI and therefore, the end of the Ottoman Empire. As the women grow and one generation replaces another, the setting transitions to different cities in Turkey while still accurately detailing the history of the time.
The characters are also beautifully done as the women draw their personality and characteristics from the changing society around them. While all women are related to each other, the reader sees just how different these women are from each other due to very different situations which were presented to them in their lives. I think Alev does a fine job of making multi-dimensional characters.
The elements of omniscient narrators, dramatic history and strong, dynamic characters make Seven Houses a strong book and good read. However, I had to give it only 4 stars because some stories seemed unfinished or at least underdeveloped. There were a few instances where I had wished that the houses had said more of their inhabitants. On the other hand, there were also some stories that appeared to drag out more than necessary. Reading them, I wondered how the information was relevant to the rest of the story and in the end; I found out that some of it simply was not. Finally, some of the stories appeared more depressing than needed, but I guess that is also how life generally rolls.
Overall, this was a good book to read for the summer. It sort of reminded me of The Joy Luck Club, only a Turkish version. So if you like strong women characters and history, you can’t be disappointed.