Reading the past in Turkey

As I mentioned in my last post, about the perils of leaving your computer unattended for too long, we spent our summer holiday in Turkey this year.

One of the books I took with me was The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. I’d like to say this was a carefully considered choice on my part, given that much of the story unfolds during the siege of Troy. Troy was located in north-west Anatolia, in what is now Turkey (of course I knew that). The Turkish connection didn’t enter my head when I drew up my shopping list and headed off to the book-shop. The Song of Achilles was on the list because it won this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction, I’d seen a couple of enthusiastic reviews, and, most important, Waterstones was promoting it in a “buy one get one half-price” deal.

However, it turned out to be an apt choice. We were in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. So not near Troy, but in the area that was ancient Lycia. It was a strange experience — eerie, almost — to visit Xanthos or Patara, say, and then just a couple of days later, in the novel, see the Lycian army arriving to help defend Troy. Or to read about Achilles’ sea-goddess mother, Thetis, and then see her depicted in a mosaic in Antalya museum, dipping her son in the river Styx. History coming to life, indeed.

By the way: one of the nice things about the villa where we stayed, the lovely Villa Castle, was the “library”, a bookshelf of novels left behind by previous residents, signed, dated and bearing the message “Please keep the library going”.

Confession: I ended up bringing most of my holiday books back unread (likewise clothes and sandals — most of them brought back unworn). But at least I’ve got a good supply for the next few months: I love that feeling of having a pile of books waiting to be chosen and read.

Did you read any good books on holiday? Tell us about them in the comments!

By Marian Dougan

2 Responses

  1. Inspiring article. I went to Side, Turkey, last September, but, staying at a hotel located right on the coast and having a small kid with me, I didn’t really have a chance to enjoy the old architecture and culture. By reading about your experiences, I’m once again inspired to do more than just swimming and sun-bathing next time I go there.

    Best regards,

    1. The sites are well worth visiting. I don’t know what Side’s like as a town, but Antalya has some lovely parks, a lovely Old Town, and attractions for kids. Beaches too, bit I don’t know what they’re like.
      Enjoy your next trip!

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