The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas. Harper, 2011. (Published February 8)
The Oracle of Stamboul grew out of Michael David Lukas’s MFA thesis at the University of Maryland, College Park. It is the story of Eleanora Cohen. Born in 1877, Eleanora grows into somewhat of a savant. She learns to read at five and by six can calculate figures in her head. She is immersed in novels before she is eight and has mastered several languages. When her father must travel to Stamboul for business, she stows away in one of his trunks at the age of eight. While in Stamboul, Eleanora’s life changes dramatically. Then the Sultan learns of her talents and seeks her advice. In the end, Eleanora must choose what path her life will take.
I enjoyed following Eleanora’s journey, but found the chapters on the Sultan less engaging. However, they were interesting enough that I always kept reading. The Oracle of Stamboul was well-written, especially for a first novel, but I was disappointed by the ending. It was not at all what I expected and seemed somewhat abrupt after the journey Lukas took me on.
If you find this time period and setting intriguing, you will probably enjoy The Oracle of Stamboul. Otherwise, I recommend you wait to see what Michael David Lukas gives us next. I expect his next novel will far exceed The Oracle of Stamboul. The bones are there. Lukas just needs a chance to flesh out his style and story-telling skills.
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The Oracle of Stamboul