My Blue Peninsula by Maureen Freely - review by Ben Philipps

Ben Philipps

Genealogy of Genocide

My Blue Peninsula


Linen Press 424pp £13.99

My Blue Peninsula, Maureen Freely’s fourth novel set in the Istanbul of her youth, follows Dora Giraud from childhood into late middle age as she uncovers and grapples with a viciously complex familial legacy. Dora’s heritage is part-Ottoman, part-Armenian, part-American: she is the descendent of both the perpetrators and the victims of genocide. Her quest – at first intuitive, later scholarly – to untangle the imbrication of genealogy and history takes place in the contexts of the Cold War and its aftermath and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism . The novel is structured as seven ‘notebooks’ mapping Dora’s attempt to explain to her daughters her decision to return to and remain in Istanbul. Autobiography becomes confession as the plot catches up with the wpresent, in which an act of extremist violence destroys decades of activism. This is a lot to take on, and even with multiple family trees and a list of characters ordered by generation, Freely’s novel is still at times overfull. Moving from bohemian spy drama to geopolitical rumination, it is sometimes tonally unsure, its epithet-studded dialogue slightly stilted. It gains assurance in its second half, however: here Freely’s smooth and precise prose feels better suited to

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