Genres: 20th Century, Historical Fiction
Source: Book Tour
Brothers bound by blood but fated to be enemies. Can their Empire survive or will it crumble into myth?
Since his younger relative usurped the Imperial throne, Sultan Murad V has been imprisoned with his family for nearly thirty years.
The new century heralds immense change. Anarchy and revolution threaten the established order. Powerful enemies plot the fall of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Only death will bring freedom to the enlightened former sultan. But the waters of the Bosphorus run deep: assassins lurk in shadows, intrigue abounds, and scandal in the family threatens to bring destruction of all that he holds dear…
For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?
Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul, The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.
I was not aware of the history of this period of the Ottoman Empire. That’s why I jumped at the chance to read this historical fiction account of some of the last Sultans of the Empire written by a descendant of the family.
Murad was supposed to be next in line for the throne. He was not the son of the current Sultan but he was the eldest male relative of the next generation. The current Sultan was his uncle but wanted to appoint his son to be Sultan after him. He took both men with him on a tour of Europe and Murad was much more popular than his cousin. This didn’t sit well.
His uncle was deposed in a coup and Murad was put on the throne. He didn’t have anything to do with the coup and he didn’t react well to it. His mental health suffered greatly. When his uncle died a few days after the coup, Murad became wracked with anxiety that the world would think he had him killed. He started drinking. This led to a nervous breakdown a few months later. He was removed from the throne and his cousin gained power. His cousin confined him, his family, and his servants to a royal palace for the rest of his life. He knew that Murad was popular and feared him regaining power.
He was not officially allowed contact with his brothers and sisters but there was a network of spies who could get messages through. Attempts were made to help him escape. Eventually he died in his gilded cage.
I was surprised that life sort of went on normally during this house arrest. I was especially surprised that the family kept growing. Babies were born. Children grew up never being able to leave the palace. I would not have wanted to have any children under those circumstances.
There are a lot of characters in this book. It could get confusing to remember who was who and how they were related especially when the men had multiple wives with many of them having children. There were also a lot of servants to keep track of. There are helpful charts and family trees at the front of the book to use as a reminder if needed.
This book imagines what it would be like to live in luxury but to not be able to fully enjoy it because a beautiful prison is still a prison. I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in this time period and region.
Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.