"The Ottoman Empire, known as the "sick man of Europe" in the 19th century, continues its slow, steady decline in the summer of 1899 as elderly Iskander Pasha (a descendant of a sultan's favorite courtier) and his well-born family gather at their seaside palace outside Istanbul. Ali, a well-known leftist activist in Britain, explores the complexities of the Ottoman mentality in his fifth outing, a colorful, sensual drama of families, sexual intrigue and rebellion. As the novel begins, Iskander suffers a stroke and loses his power of speech. Various members of the family tell their stories, interwoven with chapters transcribing confessions made to the "stone woman," a rock formation on the estate. Iskander has four children: Salman, the eldest son; Halil, a general in the army; Nilofer, the daughter whose dramatic life is most fully explored; and her married stepsister, Zeynep. Memed, Iskander's elder brother, and his lover, the Baron, also join the family. The plot coheres neatly as the stories interconnect: Nilofer married a Greek schoolteacher for whom her love cooled, leaving her miserable; when her husband is murdered, a victim of anti-Greek violence, she pursues a love affair with a barber's son. Salman is also unhappily married, to a woman in Egypt who turns against him with an almost psychopathic violence. Halil conspires with other generals in the army to overthrow the Ottoman government. The Baron, a trained Hegelian scholar, holds forth, pedantically, on the roots of Ottoman decay."--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.