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Silk Armor by Claire Sydenham

By Bellezza @bellezzamjs
Silk Armor by Claire Sydenham
"They were never supposed to go to university. Sevgi and Didem told me; universities were for men. Any father fool enough to let a daughter enroll deserved what the place made of her."

When we meet Claire and Victor they are at the train station in Turkey, preparing for the first leg of a journey which already seems fraught with despair. They do not know, exactly, what time the train will arrive. There are no seats available in the waiting room. Soldiers guard the entrance to ensure that everyone who comes into the station has a ticket. Then suddenly Victor stands up because Didem is waving to him outside the window. In the middle of the night. He runs to her, disregarding his duffel, as well as the fact that his ticket is with his colleague, Claire. And so the story begins, from somewhere near the end of it, first.

Sevgi and Didem are beautiful students at Anadolu University in Eskişehir. They long for more in their lives than to be simply a butcher's daughter or a female who must live under the constraints of a Muslim woman. Sevgi wears a veil, which covers her luxurious auburn hair; Didem is less conservative and, in the beginning, able to deceive her father. She tells him she is taking language lessons from Claire when actually she is sleeping with Victor, and from this duplicity their story unfolds. It is a story involving the girls, their teachers, their families, and even a Turkish young man. It is a complicated story of kismet (fate) which could be deacribed as simply the end result of the choices that we make.While I was caught up in their story, in the way that life is so very complicated, especially when we exercise our own will or desires, the part that especially struck me is the meaning behind the title. I have always wondered why it is that women will submit to wearing a veil, thereby abandoning not only their individuality but their beauty. What Didem explains, in a letter to Claire, makes clear to me that sometimes women choose to wear a veil for themselves. That sometimes having an armor, even if it is merely of silk, is a good and necessary thing.

"So I need to say: I did this myself. For myself. I put on the veil not to remind other people of who I am but to remind myself. This is important. I need it the way near-sighted people need glasses. To compensate for a weakness. It's through the veil the world comes into focus for me. Men on the street don't look at me as if they want to devour me anymore. And so I don't think of them that way anymore. I think of them the way I should. The veil helps me to see what is good in them."

This fascinating novel took me to Turkey. It showed me the lives of American teachers abroad, the lives of young and lovely Turkish girls, the strictness of their environment, and how our expectations and dreams can be thwarted by our desires. No matter from which country we call home.
The publisher of Silk Armor is offering a give-away of the novel (U.S. only, please). You may choose an edition for the Kindle or a paperback copy. Simply leave your name and email in a comment below to be considered for the drawing. 

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