Halide’s Gift by Frances Kazan

“In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Halide’s Gift is an intimate portrait of a young woman of restrained passions and fiercely independent mind.”- R andom House

***image1***My novel, Halide’s Gift , is set in the mysterious world of Constantinople during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. At the center of the tale are two sisters, one flamboyant and daring, the other a dreamer, shy and withdrawn.

The story follows their lives that are driven by the turbulent times political upheaval, and the love of radically different men.

Selima, the mother, bequeaths to her daughter Halide her gift, a power nursed within the family for generations and passed from mother to daughter and never revealed to outsiders. It is the power to see and commune with the spirits of the dead. Halide’s Gift leaves her torn between the religious, tradition bound world of her grandmother and the intellectual western oriented world of her father, who defies the Sultan and sends his brilliant daughter to the American College for women.

My novel is loosely based on the early life of Halide Edib Adivar, writer, scholar and Turkish nationalist; but Halide’s Gift must not be read as fact. Even though I paid scrupulous attention to details, the story is a fiction. The task of exploring the interior life of any character can only occur through speculation, supposition, and intuition blended with a measure of wisdom. Once I began writing, and the process of creation was underway, my characters took on a life of their own.

The real life Halide did not possess the gift. Apart from describing frequent visits to the fortuneteller with her Grandmother, Halide made no reference to mystical interests in either her memoir, or her writing. Her gift came from my imagination, or so I thought.


When the manuscript was finished, and with the publisher, I returned to Istanbul, where I met John Freely the author of a history of Robert College, the American School. After hearing about my book he gave me with a rare photograph of Halide Edib and her father that he had found buried in the college archives.

The photo showed the two of seated in the garden of their home in Sultan Tepe, where, coincidentally, I had set a scene in the book. Halide was dressed as a gypsy fortuneteller. Edib Bey had his arm extended, and gazed fondly at his daughter as she bent over his hand, reading his palm. Noticing my surprise Professor Freely added, “Apparently Halide Edib had great interest in the supernatural.”

I am not in the habit of basing my characters on friends and acquaintances, but I couldn’t help sneaking Merryn Jose into my tale. Can I tell you a secret? She was the model for Peyker.

It was Merryn who told me this book would be published long before my manuscript was finished. A famous editor once told me that when he read a work of fiction he knew the writer better than their psychoanalyst. Perhaps too there is more of myself in my characters than I care to admit.

Fiction writing draws on memories and images buried deep in the subconscious; to know myself I have to write. I hope you enjoy my tale.

Halide’s Gift .

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by Frances Kazan
Frances Kazan is the author of Goodnight, Little Sisters, a novel, has an M.A. in Turkish studies, and is a regular contributor to Cornucopia. A member of the Society for Women Geographers, she is board president of The Kitchen, a performance center in Chelsea. Frances Kazan was married to renowned film director, Elia Kazan for two decades. She currently resides in New York.