“Leyla’s house” by Zülfü Livaneli

This article is also available in: Italiano

“Leyla’s house” is a novel that can lead us to discover the wonderful yalı of the Bosphorus and their history through the story of Leyla, an elderly Ottoman noblewoman unjustly expelled from her home.

Leyla’s house

Leyla, a very refined elderly lady and the latest descendant of an ancient Ottoman family, is forced to leave her family home when it is sold by the bank to a wealthy tycoon and his ambitious wife. The son of the former gardener of the villa, Yusuf, welcomes Leyla to her home in Cihangir, a lively neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, and tries to help her regain ownership of the house from which she was unjustly evicted. There, Leyla sees the life of artists and marginalized people for the first time and she meets Yusuf’s girlfriend, Roxy, a hip hop singer daughter of Turkish immigrants in Germany, who does not welcome the elderly lady’s arrival with enthusiasm. With the scrolling of the pages she silently enters the lives and memories of all the characters and slowly she will uncover the thread that unites the destinies of all of them in an unexpected and exciting ending.

Leyla and the others

“Leyla’s house” is a novel with a fairytale flavor that will transport us to a contemporary Istanbul as rich in injustice as it is in beauty and hope. The absolute protagonist of the book will be Leyla, an elderly lady descended from an ancient and noble Ottoman family that has long since fallen into poverty more and more, so much so that she seems cursed by misfortune. With the arrival of the new owners, the mature noblewoman will be unfairly forced to leave her beloved home and discover modern Istanbul; her initial impact will be painful, but over time Leyla will be able to revive her young guests and find the key to regaining what rightfully belongs to her.

Leyla's house

However Leyla is not the only protagonist of our story and we must absolutely mention other incredible characters such as Ali Yekta Bey, father of the new owner who, after a life as an honored waiter in illustrious families, finally dreams of fulfilling his dream of becoming owner of a yalı. Another incredible character will then be Roxy, who is the one who most of all will make an incredible evolution, letting the reader glimpse the hope for a rosy future. Finally, Leyla’s relatives must be absolutely mentioned who, thanks to their family drama, will lead the reader to truly discover the misfortunes that struck the Ottoman world, leaving behind many wounds both to her heritage and to her heart.

The yalı

To say it all, the real undisputed protagonist of the novel will be the yalı, one of the most beautiful “maritime” residences that can be found in Istanbul and, in general, in the world. These marvelous villas will in fact be a constant presence in the book, tying themselves as much to the fate of the Bosnalı, Leyla’s family, as to that of Ali Yekta Bey, who had always served and lived in these places. Their beauty will be praised far and wide, allowing the reader to get away from the wonderful mosques of Fatihand to enjoy the melancholy and aristocratic magic of these places, the last great displays of Ottoman pomp before the fall and, for this reason, destined to be cursed by fate at the same time.

Leyla's house

From this point of view, “La casa di Leyla” proves to be a real jewel for lovers of such villas, making it a must if you are thinking of taking a boat ride on the Bosphorus. If you want to know more about yalı, know that in a few weeks my article and podcast will be released on the Casa editrice Altano website, with which I have the privilege of collaborating starting from May 2022.

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