A Recipe for Daphne

Hoopoe: American Univ. of Cairo. Feb. 2021. 362p. ISBN 9789774169793. $16.95. F
DEBUT Writing in English, Istanbul-based award winner Anastasiadou successfully blends romantic machinations among a group of Greek Orthodox Christians in Istanbul with a keen portrait of a community under siege. Venerable descendants of Greeks living in the city since at least the 300s CE, the Rums, as they are called, have dwindled considerably in number since the infamous 1955 pogrom targeting the city’s Greek minority. The little community is stirred up by the arrival of American-born Daphne, there to learn more about her Rum roots and study Turkish in preparation for a PhD in oral history. Immediately, both Fanis, a preening septuagenarian, and Kosmas, a pastry chef devoted to his mother, compete to win free-spirited Daphne, who enters into a clash-of-cultures waltz as she considers what she wants. Amid this lightheartedness, readers are suddenly slugged with the knowledge that Fanis lost his fiancée to suicide after she was raped during the pogrom, and his ongoing efforts to come to terms provide a dark counterpoint underscoring the Rums’ troubled outsider status.
VERDICT Good reading for all.
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