If you haven’t picked your book to read on the beach this summer yet, then an epic love story about a family forced into exile may just be the page-turner to accompany you while you tan.
The Seamstress of Ourfa by Victoria Harwood Butler-Sloss is the first in a trilogy and her first book. Set in 1895 Ourfa – a thriving, cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire – 13-year old Khatoun Khouri meets her future husband Iskender Agha Boghos. Iskender is twice her age, he is a poet, a philosopher and a dreamer. Although he is much older than her and has much more life experience, he cannot express with words just how much how adores her. While Iskender struggles to find words, the Ottoman Empire is crumbling around them, the world is heading for war and the Armenian minority is subject to increasing repression, culminating in the genocide of 1915.
While Iskender retreats into his books and alcohol, loses land, money and business, Khatoun holds their family together by sewing for the wives of the men who persecute them. Her creations are said to stir feelings of love and lust and also bring about fertility. The family joins the resistance and evades the death marches to the Syrian Desert only to lose everything when exiled by Mustafa Kemal and the birth of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
What unfolds afterwards, is a tale of love, loss and redemption in the diaspora told by four generations of women, each becoming the protector of the next. The following three books will follow the stories of the next generations, until the present day.
Butler-Sloss is half Armenian and half English and was brought up in Nicosia. She moved to London at the age of 18 to begin her career as a dancer at the Raymond Revuebar. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and spent 20 years as an actress. She moved to Los Angeles after she got married, where she wrote this book.
The Seamstress of Ourfa
Book presentation by Victoria Harwood Butler-Sloss. June 27. Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR), 285 Ermou Street, Nicosia. 7.30pm. Tel: 22-300999