Mary Bor’s favourite books

Let me introduce a keen traveler and a very curious book fan Mary Bor through her five favourite books. I hope you’ll find interest in all of them…

“Portrait of a Turkish Family” – Irfan Orga

“Portrait of a Turkish Family” – Irfan OrgaAn autobiographical work that tells the story of one Ottoman family from the turn of the twentieth century through the First World War and the establishment of Turkey as a republic. The book was recommended to me by an assistant in a bookshop in Istanbul as I embarked on a three month trip around the Black Sea. When I got home I found a scrap of paper with the name of the book and the author and ordered it. It’s a charming story, beautifully told, that excels in recounting the trials and tribulations of a well to do family at a great time of upheaval.

It is told in pure story form, in the first person, but this in no way diminishes its value as a historical source. It is, in fact, an excellent book for anyone wishing to learn about the collapse of the Ottomans and the founding of the Turkish Republic. But where it really shines is as a charming yet poignant story of a family torn apart by war, beautifully told with grace and dignity.

“The Secret History” –  Donna Tartt

The secret history Donna TartRichard, a scholarship student at a prestigious American university is befriended by a group of privileged students who have a terrible secret.  They have done something horrific but in trying to cover their tracks, the horror grows and grows and the recriminations between the group threaten to tear them apart. Is it too late for Richard to distance himself from the others?

This psychological thriller is compelling and fascinating. The character studies are exceptional. I didn’t want it to end.

“The Rachel Papers” – Martin Amis

The Rachel Papers by Martin AmisMartin Amis’s first novel and my favourite of his. It is a superb coming of age novel that is at once excruciating, embarrassing and very, very funny.  It tells the story of Charles Highway who sets himself the challenge of having sex with an older woman before he goes off to university. When he meets Rachel he knows immediately she is going to be that woman and he embarks upon a mission to seduce her. Of course, quite predictably (but in no way spoiling the readability of this fine novel) things don’t work out as Charles hopes.

“On a Shoestring to Coorg: Experience of Southern India” – Dervla Murphy

“On a Shoestring to Coorg: Experience of Southern India” – Dervla MurphyI could have chosen any of Dervla Murphy’s books but this is the one I read first. Dervla is the author who turned me on to travel writing and launched a habit I can’t kick. I immediately fell in love with the opinionated and quirky cyclist and she has inspired my own writing to some degree. In this book she travels in the tiny Indian province of Coorg with her then five year old daughter. Her interactions with the locals, her vivid descriptions of landscapes and her historical interludes make her books the best travel writing out there.

Snow” – Orhan Pamuk

Snow by Orhan PamukKa, a poet who has been living in exile in Germany returns to Turkey for his mother’s funeral. While he’s there he intends to do some research for an article he’s been commissioned to write about the mysterious suicides of a number of young women in a conservative city in eastern Turkey which may be related to the issue of the wearing of headscarves by women. At the same time he wants to meet up with an old lover, hoping to turn back the clock. However, when he arrives in Kars, he finds it is he who is under scrutiny.

Another favourite author and a difficult choice but this one wins by a whisker. Pamuk covers a number of important and topical issues but never loses sight of the plot in this exceptional novel that looks at how Turkey may or may not cope with the conflict between tradition and modernity.


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Written by Mary Bor
Mary Bor

Aspiring travel writer and avid Yugophile living in the UK and Slovenia. Loves (in no particular order) Scandinavian crime fiction, Indian food, walking, scavenging, Russian dolls

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