The Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Book Review School Edition!
I'll be the first one to admit that the travel writing genre is not my cup of tea. I prefer one continuing narrative that tells an overall story. However, I will also say that this collection of letters did contain some entertaining little tidbits that I wasn't expecting. Lady Montagu met a myriad of characters that told her great stories of their lives. She learned different customs and traditions that were a part of other people's cultures.
One thing I have to give Lady Montagu props for is debunking myths of travel writers that came before her. We mentioned this briefly is class, but I will say that there were some notions about the Turkish people that were less than positive. She made a point to mention several things she liked about their culture, even going as far as saying that she wished her own culture would adopt some of their customs.
The writer herself is an interesting "character." I enjoy her fascination with anything new, and I myself am fascinated with the company that she keeps. Being a Lady, she found herself in the company of many important people. She met with Queens, military leaders, and many more. She also met them in interesting places, including the Turkish baths and some harems. They were as interesting as they were adorned by lavish jewelry (which they all were, in case there was some confusion).
While I was impressed with her interest, she did have some elitist tendencies. As an aristocrat, she considered the lower class as completely different than who she was. They were dirty and didn't have any self-control, at least in her mind. Of course, that left a sour taste in my mouth. While she was more progressive in some ways, she was still a product of her generation and class, which wasn't as fun to read.
The last thing I feel like I should mention is my major critique of this novel: while it had it's moments, it was also filled with a few unnecessary details, at least in my point of view. That is sort of standard considering these were private letters sent to friends. They were filled with personal details that weren't that interesting. Some were just accountings of the history of particular places she passed through. This was a good chunk of the novel, and I found myself skipping over a lot of it.
With all of this said and done, I going to give this three turkey egg sized emeralds out of five.
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