The Oracle of Stamboul

oracleofstamboulThe Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas is the most exquisite fairy tale of a novel. It is magical, atmospheric and divinely beautiful.  According to an ancient prophecy, dictated by a King on his deathbed, a child would be born who would be the Oracle of Stamboul and according to the midwife, who brought Eleonora into this world (as her biological mother left this world), all of the signs are there and the oracle has been born. The auspicious portents foretell that Eleonora Cohen is destined to fulfil the Oracle prophecy.

The year is 1877 and eight year old Eleonora daughter of a Jewish carpet merchant from Constanta (Romania), is a budding savant. She is gifted in the fields of reading and language and possesses maturity beyond her years. When her beloved father is going on a planned business trip, rather than be separated from him Eleonora stows away in one of her father’s steamer trunks. When she arrives in the ancient city of Stamboul, this is where the magic carpet ride begins. Eleonora finds herself alone without her father. She is comforted and supported by the constant presence of a flock of Hoopoe birds who have followed Eleonora from Constanta and keep a constant vigil upon her.

She is immersed in the crumbling Ottoman Empire, the sharp salty scent of the Bosphorus, the spices and splendours of the bazaar, the sumptuous richness of the Sultan’s Palace. All of these are described with skill and the most remarkable metaphoric magic.

The political turmoil and the espionage are not convincing but this novel falls within the classification of magic realism so if you forgive the realism and focus on the magic, you will be suitably wowed. This book is a treasure.

The reader should ponder the issue of the hourglass, time, dreams, sleep and savour this novel with dreamy reflection.