Today, I’m pleased to welcome Engin Inel Holmstrom to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to spotlight her latest novel, House of Daughters, which is set during the 1920s in Ottoman Turkey and inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As soon as I heard about this book, I was intrigued, and I was thrilled that Engin was willing to tell me and my readers what inspired her to put Austen’s characters into a setting I’d never considered before.
Please give Engin a warm welcome:
So glad to hear that you are interested in my new novel, House of Daughters, inspired by Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Let me explain how it came about.
I still remember the day I bought my copy of the book. I was a sophomore at the American College for Girls in Istanbul—a private school where most classes were taught in English. My roommate and I had gone to Pera, Istanbul’s main shopping and entertainment venue then, to watch a movie and visit my favorite shop, the Hachette Bookstore. The minute I saw the book, I fell in love with it. It was a palm-sized leather-bound version in navy blue…very elegant and practical. After all these years and multiple readings, the book is still intact. Every time I open it, it tickles me to see my handwritten definitions of the words ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’. My English was that bad then and, as a result, most of Austen’s gentle barbs at the frailties of human behavior went over my head. But, I got the delicious basic story of a spunky girl putting a proud man in his place and taming him! For a while, Elizabeth became our role model, but unfortunately, not a single Darcy was around!
Many years later, when I was waiting for an inspiration for my second novel, I picked up the book and started reading it again, as I usually do once a year. Lo and behold, right in front of my eyes, Austen’s first sentence morphed into something else:
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a father in possession of five daughters must be in want of peace of mind that only suitable sons-in-law can provide.
Pride and Prejudice, Turkish style! Why not? So many retellings or sequels to the novel have been written but no one has transported the popular story to another country, least of all to Turkey. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became.
I started imagining scene after scene of a Turkish family saddled with the problem of five unwed daughters. I gave the name Perihan to the second oldest, my doe-eyed Turkish version of Elizabeth. I imagined my Turkish Darcy, named Murat, to be a dashing wounded officer, in a hospital, taken care by Nurse Perihan. But where and when in Turkey? Istanbul, of course. That’s where I was born and raised. Then I knew it had to be the 1920s for two reasons. First, I didn’t want the story to take place in modern times. Nowadays most Turkish girls find their own husbands without the help of their family or matchmakers. The dynamics of a certain class of Turkish family in the 1920s Istanbul were somewhat similar to those of English families of Austen’s time. Second, the decade of the 1920s, following WWI, provided me with an exciting background for my story. Istanbul was occupied by the British. The Ottoman Empire was dying. The nationalists were fighting for independence in Anatolia, and Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later renamed Ataturk by a grateful nation, was busy with plans to found a new Turkish republic and transform what was left of the Ottoman Empire into a modern democratic state.
I had learned from my first novel, Loveswept, a romance involving a Turkish girl and an English merchant marine officer, that it’s easier to start with something from one’s own life history. So in the first chapters of House of Daughters, I described my own family house in Goztepe, on the Asian side of Istanbul. And once you start, the rest follows, right?
My female characters, although traditionally subdued at the beginning, become more outspoken and independent women as the country undergoes dramatic social and cultural changes. Murat and his friends are not the dandies of Austen’s time but officers involved in a clandestine plot to outsmart the British. And who helps them achieve their goal? My Perihan! So, the book has a lot to offer not only to Austen fans but also to those who like novels about strong female characters.
Here’s a teaser from House of Daughters. After their break-up, Murat and Perihan meet again:
…Perihan has never seen him standing up. Nor dressed. He seemed taller, more powerful, and more masculine. Wavy brown hair made him look younger and more handsome. Much more. She could still feel his cool taut skin under her hands and the ripple of his muscles…
…Murat was staring at Perihan now, so different from the one in the ill-fitting nursing uniform he had known. Dressed in a full-skirt and a tight-fitting white blouse, this one had a tiny waist that he was certain his hands could encircle easily. A slender neck rose from the open collar she was nervously trying to button. He smiled. That simple act attracted more attention than if she had left it alone.
About House of Daughters
Engin Inel Holmstrom’s second novel, House of Daughters, is a delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to 1920s Turkey. The Ottoman Empire is dying. Istanbul is occupied by the British. But all Emin Efendi can think of is marrying off his five daughters to secure their places and fortunes.
While working as a nurse, Emin Efendi’s favorite daughter Perihan meets a dashing, wounded Turkish officer, Major Murat. They’re attracted to each other, but Murat’s pride in his family’s social status prejudices their blossoming love.
In this retelling, Jane Austen’s beloved characters are taken out of the drawing room and their tale is told within the historical context of the Turkish fight for independence, birth of its new nation, and greater opportunities for women. House of Daughters should appeal to Austen’s readers as well as all those who enjoy reading novels with strong female characters.
About the Author
Engin Inel Holmstrom was born and raised in Turkey. She came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Exchange Student to go to graduate school for her Ph.D. and later married her classmate. They both taught at her alma mater in Istanbul for three years before returning to the United States and settling in the Washington, D.C. area. House of Daughters is Holmstrom’s second novel. In her spare time, Holmstrom enjoys writing, painting, and ballroom dancing. She currently lives in Leesburg, with her husband of 53 years and her two cats.
I have 3 ebook copies of House of Daughters to offer to my readers, courtesy of the publicist at Lavidge. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what most intrigues you about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 30, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!