... evocative of the best thrillers, which are so attractive because they incorporate elements of a variety of literary genres ... manages to incorporate elements of mystery, political thriller, as well as a hefty dose of Turkish and world history. These elements help make it a riveting page-turner, but it's the emotional aspect of the novel which renders it so endearing. Livaneli is remarkably attentive to the challenges faced by women in contemporary Turkey ... In the hands of a less talented author such an attempt might turn into a didactic mess, but Livaneli manages to make it all flow in a coherent and compelling narrative ... offers a fascinating insight into that tumultuous moment when the country was teetering on the brink of change ... a beautifully wrought story and a riveting page-turner at the same time. It contains stories within stories, and the reader will quickly lose themselves in the intersecting plot threads and the rich histories upon which they draw. At the same time, it offers a moving and evocative depiction of modern Turkey, with all the sights, tastes, smells, and diverse cultural components that make that country so magical, even as it suffers under Erdogan's brutal and corrupt dictatorship ... a paean to everything that makes Turkey beautiful, as well as a tribute to the suffering its people have faced and the complex challenges they face in coming to terms with their past and building a viable future. That so much can be packed into a single book is a tribute to Livaneli's profound skill as an author and observer of his country's troubled present.
This unashamedly romantic and poignant historical novel is one to get lost in. The joy and pain of a brief tragic love affair reverberate across borders and decades, it’s quite the emotional rollercoaster. Ultimately the love story says much about the beauty and perseverance of the human spirit; loyalty, love and facing up to loss ... has a lot to say about the modern Turkish nation, it’s brutal birth and it’s relationship to its peoples, ramifications of which we can see enacted right now ... There are red herrings, intriguing asides and a full and colourful Turkish background. This story packs a punch, it’s heart rending and heart warming, insightful and questioning of Western assumptions of moral superiority, bias and condemnation ... At times beautiful, almost elegiac, Serenade for Nadia is sentimental, but not cloying, intelligent with enough insight to match it’s heart, it’s an engrossing read ... Very well translated by Brendan Freely.
Livaneli (via Brendan Freely’s translations) swings from the present day to the war era and back again without confusion or disturbance. He introduces the reader to a slice of history unfamiliar to many. He also depicts the stereotyping, male chauvinism, and paranoia still bubbling in his country at the turn of the 21st century ... a war epic as much as it is a love story (two love stories, really: one romantic, one platonic), a literary mystery, a cross-cultural exploration, and a deep meditation on the nature of loss ... But perhaps it succeeds most as an adult Bildungsroman ... Despite the human darkness in which this story is rooted, Serenade for Nadia sings with Maya’s compassion for Max, with Max’s passion for his late wife, and with the resilience of those who suffered so tragically from betrayal and hatred.