The ottomn empire

A complicated bond: The Best of Friends, by Kamila Shamsie, reviewed

When I think of Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, I picture a pot boiling on a hob, the water level rising until it spills over the lip and onto the stove. In Best of Friends, the author’s seventh novel, the tension is still there, but the bubbles are contained. It’s more of a simmer, gentle but insistent – not unlike the ‘shared subtexts’ that pass between the protagonists. We first meet Maryam and Zahra as 14-year-olds. It’s the summer of 1988 in Karachi and the two girls are preoccupied with standard teenage stuff (budding bodies, boys) and the kind of concerns that sadly become standard when living under a ‘repellent dictator’

An empire crumbles: Nights of Plague, by Orhan Pamuk, reviewed

Welcome to Mingheria, ‘pearl of the Levant’. On a spring day, as the 20th century dawns, you disembark at this ‘calm and charming island’ south of Rhodes from a comfortable steamer after sailing from Smyrna, Piraeus or Alexandria. A crew of Greek or Muslim boatmen will row you to the picturesque harbour of Arkaz, flanked by the radiant White Mountain and the gloomy turrets of the medieval castle. The fragrances of honeysuckle, linden trees and the famous Mingherian roses waft over azure seas. Admire the ancient churches and newer mosques, the neo-classical State Hall, the grand buildings funded by the sultan’s government in faraway Istanbul. Savour figs, oil, nuts and