Halide's Giftby Frances Kazan
Random House, 345 pp., $23.95
In this historical novel, Frances Kazan, married to famed director Elia Kazan, has put forth an enticing account of a strong female protagonist -- Islamic feminist and nationalist author Halide Edib Adivar -- in an adverse historical setting -- Turkey, 1889-1902. Despite the title, Halide has many gifts besides her inherited (fictional) ability to see and hear the dead. She possesses "unusual intelligence" and "intense discipline and focus," according to her Sultan-employed father. These are almost understatements; she would eventually come to write 25 novels and become Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's only female general before her death in 1964. Though Halide's Gift disappointingly ends when Halide is 20 and at times hits with a heavy hand, Kazan's novel is an angioplastic journey through the fatty, weakened heart of the Ottoman Empire. Her story of a shimmering Constantinople in political shambles is nearly as absorbing as her story of Halide's tumultuous adolescence.