It is 1895, Ourfa, a thriving, cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. Khatoun Khouri, a girl of thirteen, meets her future husband, Iskender Agha Boghos. Twice her age, a poet, philosopher and dreamer, he adores her but cannot express it in words. Around them, the Ottoman Empire is crumbling, the world heading towards war and the Armenian minority subjected to increasing repression, culminating in the genocide of 1915.
As Iskender retreats into his books and alcohol, losing land, money and business, Khatoun holds their family together by sewing for the wives of the men who persecute them; her creations inciting love, lust and fertility. The family joins the resistance and evades the death marches to the Syrian Desert only to lose everything when exiled by Mustafa Kemal and the birth of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
What follows is a tale of love, loss and redemption in the diaspora told by four generations of women, each becoming the guardian angel of the next.
Praise for the book
‘An intimate and richly lyrical epic of Armenian life and tragedy.’ | Colin Thubron
‘The Seamstress of Ourfa is like a magical portal transporting readers to all corners of the globe, including Cyprus, England and the Ottoman Empire. But the real undertaking of this tender novel is a journey across the hills and valleys of the human heart. Butler Sloss delivers her readers into the careful, nurturing hands of her female characters who sew, cook, and nurse the broken hearts and minds inhabiting this moving novel.’ | Aline Ohanesian
‘Vividly imagined and realised down to the last stitch of a coat hem in the most gorgeous prose, The Seamstress of Ourfa is a story of a love upon which generations would one day be built. The voices, gentle laughter and sighs of Khatoun and Iskender echoed long after I finished reading their story. This is a work borne of a passion that resonates on every page, it is the passion of Khatoun which lives now in her great grand-daughter.’ | Aminatta Forna
‘You cannot help but fall under the spell this novel weaves. You forget that it is writing – it is that good – you are simply transported, via all the senses, to the rooms and courtyards, the mountain roads and town streets, and from these into the hopes and fears, and complex nature, of the people depicted.’ | Mark Mayes