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Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

by Charles King

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1506132,767 (3.73)None
"When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, so many spies mingled in the lobby of Istanbul's Pera Palace Hotel that the manager posted a sign asking them to relinquish seats to paying guests. As the multi-ethnic empire became a Turkish republic, Russian émigrés sold family heirlooms, an African American impresario founded a jazz club, Miss Turkey became the first Muslim beauty queen, and a Boston professor unveiled the lost treasures of the Hagia Sophia. Turkey's president Kemal Atatürk, Muslim feminist Halide Edip, the exiled Leon Trotsky, and the future Pope John XXIII fought for new visions of human freedom. During World War II, German intellectuals ran from the Nazis while Jewish activists spirited refugees out of occupied Europe. In this pioneering portrait of urban reinvention, Charles King re-creates an era when an ancient city became a global crossroads--a forgotten moment when Europe's closest Muslim metropolis became its vital port of refuge; 'Intrigue, violence, sex, and espionage, all set against the slow dimming of Ottoman magnificence. I loved this book'--Simon Winchester"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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Interesting information and photos, but I won't try to pretend there aren't a lot of boring parts in this book. ( )
  Leeann_M | Sep 18, 2020 |
Enjoyable romp through the history of Constantinople/Istanbul in the 20th century. Grand events of Turkish & world history are interspersed with personal stories of entrepreneurs, singers, beauty queens, spies, archaeologists and the ups and downs of the singular Pera Palace, one of the great surviving institutions of pre-Kemal Istanbul. King moves deftly between macro and micro-history, it is a great way to learn the basics of how the age-old Ottoman Empire morphed into the modern nation-state of Turkey. ( )
  drmaf | Mar 30, 2017 |
I liked the way the writer included historical facts among everyday life. I also liked his intention to put the Hotel as a way to show theses changes. In fact, the Hotel role was missed through the book with much more emphasis in the political situation and the Jews fate during the WW II.About this subject it was very interesting how it was described the Jewish migration to Palestine but a subject like that deserved a more extended description better fitted in a different book. Too short and quick the texts about Turkey politics transition to modern time. ( )
  palu | Jul 9, 2016 |
Dealing with the themes of transition, transience and transformation in the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the Turkish Republic, King hangs much of his tale on the rise and fall of the hotel the Pera Palace, which originated as a destination created by the firm who ran the fabled Orient Express.

Was I entertained by this book; yes. Is it faultless; no. In an essentially picaresque tale the book does have a somewhat meandering quality at time. Still, if you're looking for an introduction into the rise of Modern Turkey you could do a lot worse then picking this book to start your education. ( )
  Shrike58 | Aug 28, 2015 |
I received an Advance Reading Copy via GoodReads First Reads program.

King's work is richly detailed in the time period between the end of the 19th Century and the middle of the 20th, with focus not just on Istanbul but on the Ottoman Empire/Turkey in general as well. The stories told are incredibly detailed and are presented in an attractive and easy to read manner.

Overall, King offers what may be the last word on the rise of modern Istanbul. He's gifted as a historian in his ability to blend an attention to detail with an interesting storyline, making even the most ignorant of readers able to follow along with the extreme changes facing Istanbul before and after World War I. A must read for anyone interested in WW1, the Ottoman Empire, or Turkish history in general. ( )
  bdtrump | May 9, 2015 |
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"When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, so many spies mingled in the lobby of Istanbul's Pera Palace Hotel that the manager posted a sign asking them to relinquish seats to paying guests. As the multi-ethnic empire became a Turkish republic, Russian émigrés sold family heirlooms, an African American impresario founded a jazz club, Miss Turkey became the first Muslim beauty queen, and a Boston professor unveiled the lost treasures of the Hagia Sophia. Turkey's president Kemal Atatürk, Muslim feminist Halide Edip, the exiled Leon Trotsky, and the future Pope John XXIII fought for new visions of human freedom. During World War II, German intellectuals ran from the Nazis while Jewish activists spirited refugees out of occupied Europe. In this pioneering portrait of urban reinvention, Charles King re-creates an era when an ancient city became a global crossroads--a forgotten moment when Europe's closest Muslim metropolis became its vital port of refuge; 'Intrigue, violence, sex, and espionage, all set against the slow dimming of Ottoman magnificence. I loved this book'--Simon Winchester"--Provided by publisher.

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