Maureen Freely


It’s one minute to midnight on 27th October 1962. The Cuban missile crisis is entering its final countdown as the world prepares for nuclear winter.

But in Istanbul’s old bohemian quarter, a confederacy of free spirits has gathered around a baby grand to see the night out in style. The moment is captured in a legendary photograph.

Behind them, dark ships pass along the Bosphorus. Some could be Soviet tankers, smuggling missiles to Cuba, but tonight no one is looking. All eyes are on Grace, the dark-haired singer. All that matters is her sublime voice, and her song: Stormy Weather.

The girl crouched beneath the piano is the discordant note in the flamboyant scene. This is Mimi, Grace’s nine-year old daughter. Until tonight she believed every word her mother uttered. Now she sees a byzantine web of lies. Who abandoned whom that night? And why did it change her life forever?

On the 27th October 2012, Mimi has come back, haunted by these unanswered questions, to make her peace with the past.

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About this book

Maureen Freely’s latest novel plunges us into the darkness of the Cuban Missile Crisis seen through the eyes of Mimi, a young girl with an overactive imagination. Playing in the background is the heady bohemian atmosphere of Istanbul’s ex-pat society.

About the author

Maureen Freely is a renowned novelist, translator and activist. She was born in the US but grew up in Turkey. Educated at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, she has spent most of her adult life in England.

She is perhaps best known for her translations of five books by the Turkish novelist and Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk.

She is a professor at the University of Warwick, and currently the chair of the Translators Association. She continues to be active in PEN and other crusading organizations.

Sailing Through Byzantium is her seventh novel.

ISBN: 978-0-9575968-1-8
Published: October 2013


“Freely’s roman à clef is compulsively readable, thought-provoking and entertaining.”
— The Independent

“Sailing Through Byzantium glints with ironic wit….Haunting vignettes heighten the melancholy that coexists with sardonic flair and narrative bustle in this engaging novel.”
— Sunday Times

“The 1962 Cuban missile crisis provides a threatening hinterland to this novel focused on Istanbul’s raffishly bohemian American expat colony. Comic mishaps and painful predicaments are silhouetted against the old imperial capital’s melancholy, mouldering grandeur.”
— Peter Kemp, Sunday Times Books of the Year 2013

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