If they remained unmarried after their father died, they’d all be at the mercy of their stern uncle and eventually become a burden to their cousin Nevzat. Visualizing herself as an old joyless spinster like her aunt Afet never failed to depress Perihan. Surely she and Melike deserved better.
(from House of Daughters)
In House of Daughters, Engin Ingel Holmstrom bring Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Turkey in the 1920s. The Ottoman Empire is nearing an end, and the Turkish people are growing restless under the British occupation following World War I. Women like Perihan Emin are seeking more than an isolated existence under the watchful eyes of their male relatives. Perihan meets Major Murat while serving as a nurse in Istanbul. She had fallen in love with him during his hospital stay, but her pride was hurt when his aunt — who grew up in the Sultan’s palace — insults her position in society. Perihan is forced to confront her unresolved feelings for Murat when she learns that he is working with her cousin Nevzat as they conspire against the occupying nations.
House of Daughters is similar to Austen’s novel in several respects. There is, of course, the attraction and misunderstandings between Perihan and Murat, our Elizabeth and Darcy. Perihan is one of five sisters in need of husbands, and young, single men are scarce due to the war. Each of Perihan’s sisters is similar to their corresponding Bennet sister, and Perihan is similar to Elizabeth in her outspoken and modern ways. I enjoyed watching Perihan come to terms with her feelings for Murat while embracing the new role for women in the new republic.
Overall, I found the novel enjoyable, especially in noting where it parallels Austen’s and in seeing how well Austen’s characters translated from Regency England to Ottoman Turkey. However, what kept me from loving the novel was the detached writing style. There was more telling than showing, which prevented me from really connecting to the characters and feeling their attachment to one another. For instance, when readers first meet Murat, he and Perihan have already met and had their misunderstanding at the hospital, which is simply retold in a couple of pages. I also am not familiar with the historical events depicted here, so I would have appreciated more details and explanations woven into the narrative.
Nevertheless, I felt like I had a good grasp on what all the upheaval meant for women at the time, and I enjoyed watching Perihan and Murat navigate the changes, both in their personal lives and in a larger context. I never would have imagined a Pride and Prejudice variation set in 1920s Turkey, so that alone made it a worthwhile read!
Disclosure: I received House of Daughters from Lavidge for review.