From the middle of the 12th century to the beginning of the 14th, the
Seljuks of Anatolia (present-day Turkey), created one of the most significant
centers of Islamic Middle Eastern culture. The Seljuk Empire, while
lasting only one hundred and fifty short years, is considered one of the most glorious
periods of Turkish history.
Alaeddin Keykubad I (r. 1220-1237) was the most renowned of the Seljuk sultans. The legendary figure of Alaeddin Keykubad looms large in the consciousness of the Turkish people. Streets, squares and universities bear his name today; his buildings grace towns across the Anatolian plain, children are named after him and study his exploits in school.
This novel tells the story of Mahperi Hatun (120? - 1255?), the wife of this celebrated sultan. Mahperi Hatun used her influence, wealth, and creative intelligence to build an important series of monuments after the death of her husband. She is one of the earliest female art patrons in Turkish history. Yet, almost nothing is known of her life. There are only a few mentions of her name in the works of the historians Ibn Bibi, Bar Hebraeus, and Simon de Saint-Quentin. There are no archives to bring her to life, no wondrous letters, memos, or remembrances by contemporaries.
This leaves us with her built works as the sole voice to tell her story. Although the real person of Mahperi may seem as distant as the moon for which she was named, the stones of her architectural legacy still shine strongly today.
A delightful surprise is in store for readers who love being in touch with history in a visceral way through its most vibrant, sometimes outlandish personalities. Moon Queen, Katharine Branning’s latest, is set in Turkey, as was her earlier Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea, though during an entirely different time period. This time, we are introduced to Mahperi, wife and mother of sultans in the 13th Century, a woman whose accomplishments would remain unknown to most of us without Ms. Branning’s deep research into unusual sources. The novel treats us to intrigues worthy of the Borgias and plunges us into a historical moment that fascinates, while also allowing us to feel that we are relating to flesh and blood persons. Don’t try for aesthetic distance while reading this novel. Just immerse yourself in its lusciousness. A book such as Moon Queen does much to dispel oversimplifications by introducing us to a deep and vast old culture, thereby increasing our understanding of that culture in the present. Though Branning does not make a claim to total historical accuracy, she contributes immeasurably to our own pleasure in experiencing this exquisite moment in time and space. Branning made me want to eat those meals, touch those fabrics, see those old stones, be present in 13th Century Turkey.
Dr. Joanna Dezio,
Montclair State University
Katharine Branning, the author of the 2010 collection of essays about Turkey, “Yes, I Would Love another Glass of Tea,” has a new book out: “Moon Queen.”
The American author recounts the tale of Queen Mahperi Hatun in “Moon Queen,” her first novel, published in October by Blue Dome Press. Set in the Seljuk era, the book tells of an extraordinary woman who built caravanserais, medreses, mosques and hamams so her people would have whatever was necessary for their physical, intellectual and spiritual needs -- a woman whose kindness caused her to be considered the “Mary of her times and the Khadija of her times.”
The story takes place in the 13th century, during the reigns of Seljuk Sultans Alaeddin Keykubad and Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II, Mahperi's husband and son, respectively.
Branning narrates how Keykubad expanded the Seljuk Empire beyond imagination. Keykubad was a conqueror, a builder and a successful sultan, which brought about jealousy and conspiracies that culminated in his premature death. Sultan Keyhusrev II's reign was marked by manipulation and corruption that weakened the empire until it fell into the hands of the Mongols. Mahperi lived her life showing love, compassion and tolerance through all the court turmoil, and built magnificent buildings as an expression of her love for God.
In a recent interview with Sunday's Zaman, Branning speaks about “Moon Queen.” Read full interview
Sunday's Zaman (Today's Zaman)
November 29, 2014
13th century Turkey: The Sultana Mahperi was born Maryam, during her lifetime as wife and mother to sultans, she built mosques and caravan stops to develop important trade routes. Those sites’ fabulous architecture inspired this novel...
Historical Novel Society
HNR Issue 70 (November 2014)
Blog: Book Babe
Reading Radar (9/20/2014)
Ebook ISBN: 9781935295679
Interview with Katharine Branning by Aydogan Vatandas:http://todayszaman.com/anasayfa_katharine-branning-brings-mahperi-hatun-to-life-in-moon-queen_365662.html