Local Borders writer Christopher Ryan second novel chronicles the life journey of a Circassian girl.
Following on from the success of his first novel, a fabulous adventure tale and love story - The Story of the Damascus Drum, Ryan’s latest tale, Satanaya and the Houses of Mercy, is again set in Syria, at the fin-de-siècle of the Ottoman Levant.
The power of the Sultan is beginning to lose sway, Beirut is under French administration, Cyprus is leased to Britain, and trouble is brewing in Greece and the Balkans. Satanaya, the young daughter of Circassian refugees from the Russian invasion of the Caucasus and now re-settled in the Galilee, begins a journey that takes her through Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and beyond.
Satanaya is trainee cook in the kitchens of the famous Convent of Seydnaya near Damascus.
An innocent affair with a local boy hastens her exit from the convent.
Her departure comes with a strange inheritance: an old cooking pot, a wooden spoon and a cookbook, left many years earlier by the legendary cook Takla. The book contains Takla’s recipes and the correspondence of an Egyptian Bey, in all a treatise on good taste in food and love.
Guided by her own heart, and of a variety of mentors, including a venerable Mother Superior, a reformed Lady of the Night, and a crazy rag-a-bone man in a green hat, she sets out for the fabled city of Constantinople.
For Satanaya, it is a journey of food, of love, and most of all a discovery of her own self.
A true nomad of the spirit, she meets with dangers and delights, heartbreaks and homecomings, while travelling through the Levant and Turkey in the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire.
Christopher Rayn runs the cafe and second-hand bookshop, Damascus Drum, in Silver Street in Hawick along with Frances Ryan, his wife.
The cafe was the inspiration for Christopher’s first book – of maybe it was the other way round... who would know?
Satanaya and the Houses of Mercy is published by Hakawati Press and is available from www.christopherryan.co.uk priced at £13.50.