Last Train to Istanbul

People always talk about judging a book by its cover, but what about judging a book by its title? The title to this novel is precisely what made me purchase it because it’s so ambiguous but also connotes a sense of adventure.

Ayşe Kulin and her translator have told such an unforgettable story through their characters. Personally I love books which weave through the lives of many characters because it shows so many different points of views but also the one thing which joins them all together. For this novel the common theme is Turkey. I won’t give too much away but briefly Kulin’s novel tells of two sisters separated through ones love for a Jewish man which resulted in a move to France. However when World War Two spreads to France there are disastrous consequences for the younger sisters family, therefore she decides to take the ‘last train back to Istanbul’ and the novel follows her along this journey whilst also floating back to her estranged family from time to time.

When I read the first page of Kulin’s novel I knew it’d be good but I wasn’t expecting to feel so many emotions at one time. I was torn between following Selva’s footsteps and chasing love or sticking to tradition the way her sister and father did. The novel raises the question of love over family or religion over tradition and I think it has an underlying message which is told through the War. It is a fact that war brings unity together, but what is the cost of this unity? And what if the war hadn’t existed – would unity still be an option? I think these are themes that Kulin has explored and are what make her novel so memorable and realistic.


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