“Intrigue, violence, sex, and espionage, all set against the slow dimming of Ottoman magnificence. I loved this book.”
— Simon Winchester
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, so many spies mingled in the lobby of Istanbul’s Pera Palace Hotel that the manager posted a sign asking them to relinquish seats to paying guests. As the multi-ethnic empire became a Turkish republic, Russian émigrés sold family heirlooms, an African American impresario founded a jazz club, Miss Turkey became the first Muslim beauty queen, and a Boston professor unveiled the lost treasures of the Hagia Sophia. Turkey’s president Kemal Atatürk, Muslim feminist Halide Edip, the exiled Leon Trotsky, and the future Pope John XXIII fought for new visions of human freedom. During World War II, German intellectuals ran from the Nazis while Jewish activists spirited refugees out of occupied Europe. In this pioneering portrait of urban reinvention, Charles King re-creates an era when an ancient city became a global crossroads—a forgotten moment when Europe’s closest Muslim metropolis became its vital port of refuge.
— Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography
“History at its best, authoritative and hugely entertaining.”
— Joseph Kanon, author of Istanbul Passage
“This social history of one of the world’s most fascinating cities is as illuminating as it is entertaining . . . a true Turkish delight.”
— Stephen Kinzer, author of Crescent and Star and The Brothers