Philip Womack

Travels with My Elephant

The Architect's Apprentice

By

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Jahan, the narrator of this richly textured, lusciously expansive historical novel, begins and ends the book by running away, seeking a peace that will never come. He escapes from his abusive stepfather and arrives (thanks to an English captain who works for the Ottomans) in 16th-century Istanbul, a ‘city of slanders and echoes’. It is a sprawling behemoth, gobbling up and spitting out people at random; the vicissitudes of life are magnified for all ranks. Ravaged by the evils of nature – fires, plagues – and of men in the form of plots, counter-plots, revenges and vendettas, it seems that there is no foundation secure enough for anyone to cling to.

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