Istanbul Days, Istanbul Nights
Author: Leonard Durso
Set in Istanbul, Turkey. A dear friend and fellow professor of a local university passes away unexpectedly from a heart attack and in his honor the theatre department, dance department and many others from the performing arts department come together to put on the most diverse and beautiful version of Romeo and Juliet. What none of them expected were the sudden feelings that began to erupt as they each grew closer.
While some come forward about their feelings and embrace them, others dance around them cautiously. Relationships form, relationships fall apart. Love gained. Love lost. A true trivial pursuit in which not everyone can win.
“Culture is like an ocean liner streaming its way across the sea and once on it, we have little choice but to ride along with it to wherever it takes us.” –Leonard Durso
This book was given to me by Smith Publicity in which I promised a review and Ta Da! here we are. I want to say thank you for the book. I greatly appreciate it. With that, let’s do this!
This book starts out with a cast list much like you’d find at the beginning of any play, and I’ll list them below for you.
Hasan – died tragically
Katja – Hasan’s wife, now a widow
Bekir – head of the university
Michael – Chair of the Theatre Department, always bringing up his age, debating his feelings for Irem
Ozge – Mustafa’s with of 25 years
Murat – married with three children, wishes he and his wife had the relationship they used to
Philip – British, a people watcher, the one you go to for advice, ponders over a drink about the book he is writing
Meric – teacher, director, actor, stud, drinker, passionate about women—not necessarily in that order
Gamze – costume designer
Simon – Head of English program, ready to go home to return to his college in Michigan
Jennifer – young, seeking adventure, madly in love with Meric
Meral – English Prep instructor
Elif – English Prep instructor
Ismigul – English Prep Instructor
Fersat – studies film, in love with Elena
Elena – top dancer in Katja’s class, in love with Berat and enjoys telling him what to do
Irem – Michael’s assistant, in love with him, cooks for him, hesitant to tell him how she feels
Deniz – costume designer, enjoys The Rolling Stones, loves to paint
Dave – a visiting professor from the US, tries for female companionship but just can’t quite get there
Brenda – from Britain, divorced, seeking adventure and intimacy to forget about her ex-husband who didn’t please her in and out of the bedroom
Sonmez – Murat’s wife, pays more attention to the kids than him
Mert – Chairman of the Board of Trustees, owner of the university
Metlem – student of theatre department, actress
Onur – Murat’s best friend
Mark – Brenda’s ex-husband
Pelin – Brenda’s protégé, sings with a trio of musician’s, in love with her professor-Meric
Naim – a waiter
Mermati a waiter
Osman – barman at The Belfast
Irem’s mom – widow
Brenda’s mom – tells Brenda not to divorce Mark
And not only does showcasing the cast, much like a play, amplify the style it was written in but the chapters, which were each month of the academic year, were titled as scenes. I loved the set-up. Even the sudden jumping around from character to character was nifty. I enjoyed the movie He’s Just Not That Into You and I want to read the book. The way the movie interweaves its characters is very close to how this book does it. They’re all interconnected. I do wish there had been page breaks, though. There were a couple times that I had no idea I’d swapped to a different character. One minute I’m reading about Dave and then suddenly I’m reading about Michael and didn’t realize it.
There is something I have to pick on and that’s the lack of detail. Sure, I read everything that was happening, but it moved so fast and I had no sensory detail to cling to that allowed me to see what was happening. So it felt stiff.
I found the instant romance between characters to be intriguing. There was no build-up between the characters. Being in their heads, I got to see that spark of knowing they liked a person light up like a firework. They just went for it and it surprised me. I was just, “Whoa, this is happening, and right now”.
Which leads me to this. This book wasn’t just about gaining love, but also losing it or never even going after it. I got to view the several aspects that surround this strong emotion. It was powerful and it rocked me because I struggle in that department. I’m a shy human and I’m really careful about who I let into my life.
And just think, all of this was happening while pulling together a play that is bi-lingual, sings, dances, and also ends as a fun, uplifting comedy of people coming together instead of two young kids killing themselves (the play is a rendition of Romeo and Juliet, remember?). Very intricate. I got to see the bit by bit as the performance was being put together by each individual. And honestly? It stressed me-and writing that has me laughing right now. Nonetheless, it was impressive to see such an intense show get put together among the stress of love lives.
Overall, this book wasn’t half bad. I can’t give it my full love because I couldn’t see it. I forgot what these character looked like and I couldn’t get emotionally attached to them because everything was on the surface. Still, a decent piece on love and turmoil it riles up.
“She can do nothing. Only lie there. And wait for the end of the world.” (Katja, p. 28)
“Another day. Another Adventure.” (Dave, p. 36)
“Leave me to my new adventures and continue playing the misunderstood poet writing your sad, forlorn verses of lost love. She thinks he is only good at love on the page but could never quite make it work in bed. Words, she thinks. Love is just words for him and she craves action.” (Brenda, p. 59)
“You are a star to me.” (Irem to Michael, p. 69)
More to come soon…
P.S. Song today? Hey Soul Sister by Train.