Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Under the Shadow. Rage and Revolution in Modern Turkey by Kaya Genç (@kayagenc). Diverse voices skilfully captured and more relevant than ever

Hi all:

Today a fascinating non-fiction book. I must confess I did not know much about Turkey before I read this book but nonetheless I could not put it down.

Under the Shadow by Kaya Genç
Under the Shadow by Kaya Genç

Under the Shadow. Rage and Revolution in Modern Turkey by Kaya Genç.


Turkey was split in two long before the attempted coup.
Acclaimed writer takes to Istanbul’s streets to find out why.

Turkey stands at the crossroads of world politics: caught between the West and the Middle East; bordering Syria and the frontiers of ISIS; excluded from the EU and governed by an increasingly hard-line leader. Recent events – both the failed military coup and Erdogan’s subsequent nationwide crackdown – have propelled this young democracy into a new chapter of turbulence.

Since the Gezi Park protests of 2013, Turkish journalist and author Kaya Genç has met and interviewed activists from across the political spectrum, from censored journalists to state propaganda writers. Weaving Ottoman history and mythology together with their stories, he gets to the heart of the fractious history and political division that is defining 21st century Turkey, skillfully showing how the ideological cracks permeating its society run deeper than previously thought.

Kaya Genç is an acclaimed writer whose work has appeared in the Guardian, FT, London Review of Books, Salon, Guernica Magazine, Prospect, TLS, The Millions and the New York Times among others. He is the Istanbul correspondent of The Believer and the LA Review of Books. His article ‘Surviving the Black Sea’ was selected as one of best non-fiction pieces of 2014 by The Atlantic. 

Advance Praise

‘Kaya Genç’s writing is as evocative as it is charming’
Elif Shafak, author of The Architect’s Apprentice and Honour

‘Kaya Genç is one of the most interesting Turkish writers to have emerged in recent years. He converses across borders while forging his own distinct voice and perspective and challenging dominant narratives.’
– Maureen Freely, President of PEN and translator of Orhan Pamuk

‘Kaya Genc, a wonderful writer and tireless champion of literature, has done us all a great service by bringing together so many young voices on the Gezi movement’
– Elif Batuman, Staff Writer, The New Yorker


Author Kaya Genç
Author Kaya Genç

About the author:

Kaya Genç

Kaya Genç is a novelist and essayist from Istanbul. L’Avventura (Macera), his first novel, was published in 2008. He has a PhD in English literature. He is currently working on his second novel. He blogs at


My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to I.B. Tauris for offering me a free ARC copy of the book that I freely choose to review.

This is the first book by Kaya Genç I’ve read, and I hope it won’t be the last. He does a great job of collecting testimonies of many youths, from different social classes, religious backgrounds and political beliefs, and presenting a balanced account of the different points of views and how the interviewees developed their stance and thoughts. It is clear that the author is a great communicator, in sync with his subjects, and understands them well. He is also skilled at capturing the nuances and peculiarities of the youths he interviews, whose voices come across clear and distinctive.

The author does not take sides (if there’s such a thing as sides), but he provides his reflections on Turkey and Istanbul itself, in a language that is nostalgic and poetic at times. He does draw historical parallels (also mentioned by several of the participants) with previous movements in Turkey and in the introduction mentions recent events (that are not discussed in the body of the book, as it looks mostly at the period between 2013 and 2015). It is difficult to read the book and not to think about the historical moment we live in, and some of the comments made throughout the book (about the role of public protests in democracies, about banning headscarves and outward religious symbols, about imprisoning journalists and the influence of social media) are as relevant to the situation in other countries as they are to Turkey’s.

A couple of examples of some of the sentences that made me think:

Now, as cries for an east-west war echo throughout the world, I am afraid of the world turning into a place like Turkey, governed almost permanently by martial law.


Once he concludes his story, Fettahoğlu seems calmer. ‘What I just told you about is not the result of politicization’, he says. ‘It is the result of a sort of void. People are radicalized and they act like hooligans. Politicization should be an intellectual process… To hate the other side’, Fettahoğlu says, ‘is not, cannot be, politicization. No.’ A final pause. ‘It is only hatred of ignorance.’

I enjoyed, in particular, the different voices and individual accounts, like glimpses into the young men and women’s lives, the clear links between the personal and the political (the book is about political ideas but mostly about people, who sometimes reach similar conclusions or feel similarly about certain issues even if they come at them from different political positions and outlooks are very different), the passion and the determination and the touching moments shared too (a mother who didn’t like her daughter’s political ideas sharing a picture of her signed book on Facebook, a young man surprised on seeing his father cry when he hears about the death of a journalist…)

I am not an expert in Turkish politics or history and enjoyed enormously the book, which is skilfully and beautifully written, and I’d recommend this book to anybody who has even a passing interest in the subject. I also look forward to reading more works by the author (and I’m very intrigued by his novels. I’ll be on the lookout).

Thanks to NetGalley, I.B. Tauris and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment, CLICK and REVIEW!

Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview STREET SOLDIER by Andy McNab (@The_Real_McNab) Action packed, with an engaging protagonist and a hopeful and inspiring message

Hi all:

Some of you might have read this review as I shared it a while back in Lit World Interviews but I hadn’t shared it here and must admit that I’d never thought about reading any of these authors books despite his popularity and this novel made me change my mind.

Street Soldier by Andy McNab
Street Soldier by Andy McNab

Street Soldier by Andy McNab

Sean Harker is good at two things: stealing cars and fighting. One earns him money, the other earns him respect from the gang that he calls family.

A police chase through the city streets is just another rite of passage for Sean . . . as is getting nicked. But a brutal event behind bars convinces him to take charge, and turn his life around.

Now he must put his street skills to the ultimate test: as a soldier in the British Army. And the battlefield is London, where innocent people are being targeted by a new and terrifying enemy.

Undercover, under threat – only Sean Harker can save the streets from all-out war.


Author Andy McNab
Author Andy McNab


About the author:

Andy McNab joined the infantry as a boy soldier. In 1984 he was ‘badged’ as a member of 22 SAS Regiment and was involved in both covert and overt special operations worldwide.

During the Gulf War he commanded Bravo Two Zero, a patrol that, in the words of his commanding officer, ‘will remain in regimental history for ever’. Awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and Military Medal (MM) during his military career, McNab was the British Army’s most highly decorated serving soldier when he finally left the SAS in February 1993. He wrote about his experiences in three books: the phenomenal bestseller Bravo Two Zero, Immediate Action and Seven Troop.

He is the author of the bestselling Nick Stone thrillers. Besides his writing work, he lectures to security and intelligence agencies in both the USA and UK. He is a patron of the Help for Heroes campaign.

His amazon page:


My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Penguin Random House UK Children’s for providing with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Andy McNab and I was intrigued by his foray into young adult writing and particularly by the main character. Sean Harker is a young boy (sixteen at the beginning of the novel) who loves cars and speed, whose life has been quite difficult, with no male role figure, a mother who has struggled through difficult and often violent relationships and he find his identity and his sense of self through his belonging to a gang. He ends up in prison and is given the opportunity to join the army and make good. Although at first, it sounds to him as if he’d be betraying his friends, when one of those comes to a bad end, he rethinks his priorities. But not everything is plain sailing and old acquaintances and new temptations come his way.

The story is set in the UK (and it uses its location, and particularly London at the end, in a very effective and spectacular way), told in the third person, from the point of view of the young protagonist, Sean, who is street wise but not always good at fully appraising his circumstances or seeing the whole picture. He has his heart in the right place (he feels for his friends, is loyal and wants to protect his mother, and dislikes the racist and sexist comments of some of the other members of his unit) but he can be manipulated and influenced by those more experienced than him. Although the story does not go into psychological depths regarding Sean’s personality and thoughts, and it does not dwell in detail on his past, there is enough to make him sympathetic, and his reactions, doubts, mistakes and fears are all too recognisable and real. He is the small guy everybody tries to take advantage of, who doesn’t know whom he can trust, but he eventually finds his way.

There is plenty of action, including violence (and traumatic and sad events) and use of swear words (although this is not extreme considering the genre), and the novel deals with difficult subjects throughout, including suicide, extreme maiming and death of a teammate by bombing, terrorism, ultra-right politics, gang warfare, domestic violence, imprisonment… The pace is fast, fluid, and there’s not let down of tension and intrigue. It is a true page-turner, and although at times it seems about to go in a dangerous direction, it pulls it all together beautifully at the end. The protagonist is put to the test emotionally, physically and psychologically and although his reasons might be good (or so he thinks) he makes many mistakes. Thankfully he is given a second chance and he proves himself worthy of it.

At the end of the book, the author identifies himself with the main character and explains that his life circumstances were quite similar to those of Sean Harker and how he was also given a chance and now he spends part of his time going to schools to spread the word.  The character and McNab’s own story made me think of many young men I’d met in prison (when I worked as a forensic psychiatrist) whose lives and circumstances were not that different to those of the character depicted in this novel. I just hope they all have the chance, the opportunity and the will to make good too.

Street Soldier is a great read for young adults (and adults) who like action, a well-plotted book, full of tension and emotions. It also delivers a positive and wholesome message and I can see it turned into a successful TV series or an action film. I’m sure this won’t be the last of Andy McNab’s books I’ll read.

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! And enjoy your weekend!


%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security