The Oracle of Stamboul

By Michael David Lukas
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780062012104, 320pp.)

Publication Date: August 2011

List Price: $13.99*
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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Summer 2012 Reading Group
“This majestic debut follows Eleanora Cohen, an eight-year-old prodigy who, through a strange turn of events, leaves her life in Constanta and becomes an adviser to the Sultan. Lukas deftly evokes the sights, smells, sounds, and textures of 19th century Stamboul. The reader sees the world through the eyes of a small, precocious child as she negotiates with the larger forces of history. This is a stunning and thoroughly engaging read that will reach beyond the typical genre of historical fiction.”
-- Rachel Marcus, Pegasus Downtown, Berkeley, CA


Ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives late in the summer of 1877 in the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, Eleonora Cohen proves herself an extraordinarily gifted childa prodigyat a very young age. When she is eight years old, she stows away aboard a ship, following her carpet merchant father, Yakob, to the teeming and colorful imperial capital of Stamboul where a new life awaits her.

In the narrow streets of this city at the crossroads of the world, intrigue and gossip are currency, and people are not always what they seem. But it is only when she charms the eccentric Sultan Abdulhamid IIbeleaguered by friend and foe as his unwieldy realm crumblesthat Eleonora will change the course of an empire.

About the Author
MICHAEL DAVID LUKAS has been a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv and a Rotary scholar in Tunisia. He is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, and his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler and the Georgia Review. Lukas lives in Oakland, California, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn t writing, he teaches creative writing to third- and fourth-graders. Visit him online at

Conversation Starters from


  1. A prophecy foretold the birth of a girl like Eleonora Cohen. Do you believe in mystical propositions such as prophecies? Do you think the events surrounding her birth were truly foretold or just coincidence? Why do we in the West dismiss the idea of prophets and prophecies? Have we lost something in doing so?

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