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My Blue Peninsula

By Maureen Freely
Published by Linen Press

£13.99 / $17.38 / €16.38
($/€ approx)



Paperback, 424 pages, published 26th September 2023

‘Profoundly intelligent, moving and brave’
Nicci Gerard
Book Description

My Blue Peninsula is a confession that fills seven notebooks. In them, Dora Giraud tries to explain to her adult daughters why she remains in Istanbul after escaping death at the hands of extremists, and why she risks her life to campaign for the truth about the Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian genocides, ferociously denied for a century by the Turkish state.

Dora’s desperate need to understand her family history is the thread that binds this story’s conflicting fragments. As the direct descendant of the genocides’ victims and perpetrators, she carries a tangled legacy of loss and betrayal, lies and ill-gotten gains. With this confession, she hopes to set her daughters free. But can she?

My Blue Peninsula is Maureen Freely’s fourth novel set in Istanbul, the city of her childhood. In each, a character from the sidelines of the preceding novel takes centre stage to probe a mystery left pending. We first met Dora in Sailing Through Byzantium as the observant daughter of a famously bohemian household who could not, then, speak the truth.

Book Review | Cornucopia 66

Shrouded in mystery (1)

By Andrew Finkel


My Blue Peninsulam
Maureen Freely
Linen Press, £13.99

This is the fourth of Maureen Freely’s novels set in Turkey, and if there is a common theme it is of a young woman, an outsider who, when confronted by the shrouded histories of the society around her, is forced to face the mysteries of her own life.

We have had a glimpse of Dora Giraud before – in Freely’s Sailing Through Byzantium. Here we step back to 1961, and she is accompanying her mother back from America to Istanbul, to a confusing reception by the sprawling post-Ottoman family they had left behind.
Dora is befriended by her Bohemian great-aunt, Hümeyra, a gorgeously eccentric artist, whose very presence seems to upset the rest of her relations, who deny their own roots to fit into respectable Republican society. What is it, Dora wonders, that keeps her mother out late every night? Who really is her father?

And why do so many of the friends she brings home seem to be spies? More to the point, will the answers to these questions ever bring her peace? A clue is the book’s title, a line from the Emily Dickinson poem It might be lonelier, an aching declaration of coming to terms with disappointment:

It might be easier
To fail – with Land in Sight –
Than gain my Blue Peninsula–
To perish – of Delight

Freely is both a shrewd and a subtle observer of character and of the way that events, even those in the past, unseen, impinge upon the present. That this is the final volume of an Istanbul Tetralogy seems unlikely. Happily, there are hints of more work to come.

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