SEAMSTRESS OF OURFA
by Victoria Harwood Butler-Sloss
The Seamstress of Ourfa richly recreates the culture of the Armenian community in Ourfa at the tail end of the Ottoman Empire.
The eponymous seamstress, Khatoun, creates beautiful dresses that leave her customers' husbands dizzy with desire, while her sister in law Ferida cooks sumptuous feasts to sustain a growing and lovingly described group of relatives and the waifs and strays they adopt.
The author creates a finely textured sense of family, only slowly making the reader aware that the date is creeping nearer to 1915 and the genocide of the Armenian people in Turkey. When the horrendous events of those years start to unfold, the traditions and lives of the Armenian people are slowly yet inexorably torn apart.
The Seamstress of Ourfa does not shy away from the painful realities of those years, but manages to maintain a sense of cultural continuity into the 1960's, where the author's surviving family reunite in Nicosia, Cyprus.