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Summary

Everyone has heard of Erdogan: Turkey’s bullish, mercurial president is the original postmodern populist. Around the world, other strongmen are now following the path that he has blazed. For the first time, Erdogan Rising tells the inside story of how a democracy on the fringe of Europe has succumbed to dictatorship.

Hannah Lucinda Smith, Turkey correspondent with The Times of London, has witnessed all that has befallen Turkey and the wider region since the onset of the Arab Spring. From the frontlines of the wars in Syria and Eastern Turkey, through the refugee crisis and the attempted coup against Erdogan, she traces how chaos in the Middle East has blown back on a country that was once heralded as the model of Islamic democracy. With access to key insiders, she also paints a vivid portrait of Erdogan’s descent from flawed democrat to staunch authoritarian.

Erdogan Rising is a story rooted in Smith’s first-hand experiences of a country divided, told through the eyes of a rich cast of characters. She journeys into the Turkey where Erdogan commands a following so devoted they compose songs in his honour, adorn their houses with his picture, and lay down their lives to keep him in power. But on the other side - sometimes just a few hundred metres down the road - she also meets the Turks who are mourning the loss of the country they once knew.

Erdogan Rising serves as a chilling warning of democracy’s fragility - and reveals how much people can change.

©2019 Hannah Lucinda Smith (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Warm, funny, engaging and always informative, Smith's writing stands among the finest of a new generation of journalist authors. Essential reading - I was delighted by every page." (Anthony Loyd)

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Is this a book about Syria or Turkey?

I don’t know much about Erdogan, that’s why I bought the audio books. However, I have worked in the Middle East for quite a while, including working on the humanitarian response to the Syrian war. As such I know quite a bit about Syria and Turkey’s involvement in Syria.

In the book the author states she initially moved to Turkey in order to be able to access Syria and report on the revolution and subsequent war.

She talks A LOT about Syria, especially about the situation in the Northeast of the country. This is fine, for me she doesn’t add anything that hasn’t already been written by Syrians themselves, but this is book about Erdogan and Turkey!

It’s perfectly legitimate to talk about Syria and the relationship with Turkey, but she doesn’t really do that. She briefly mentioned how ISIS/Da’esh members passed through Turkey to get to Syria to impose their horrible interpretation of Islam, but no interrogation of why Erdogan and his followers would allow this, why they did this strategically. It’s like she wants to write a book about Syria but got thwarted.

As mentioned I don’t know that much about Erdogan, so I judge the authenticity of the facts she’s presenting by judging the authenticity of the facts I do know about. She’s quite correct that Turkey took more than 3 million refugees (Lebanon has a higher proportion per capita) but she’s completely wrong that only Turkey allows refugees to live outside camps. Leaving aside the fact that Lebanon has no formal refugee camps, 83% of refugees in Jordan live in urban areas outside of camps! This is really sloppy and could have been fact checked by a simple google search.

So I can really recommend you listen to this book. There are too many factual errors and I’m not even mentioned that she takes a very orientalist approach to the Middle East (she quits her job in London to move to cover Syria without speaking Arabic and having no experience in the region).

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Egotistical. Author memoirs with a side of Erdogan

This is a poor book.

Fundamentally is about the author's experience in Turkey, tired to the peg of Erdogan. Sadly the author is in love with their own command of metaphor, trivial insight and importance to the story. None of which are justified.

The structure is random. Neither a chronology Nor a more clever thematic or innovative structure, it bounces around worth little thread. Events such as the failed coup are trailed over and over as a result, but the structure does nothing to increase understanding.

The performance is abysmal. Normally I try and stick to titles read by the author as they're less hammy but Smith just read her own words poorly. Half the time you can't tell whether she is quoting someone or giving her own view until the end of the paragraph, though she seemed to sort of work this out about two thirds of the way through.

I slogged through but this was not very informative, about as insightful as a Wikipedia page and a product of ego not intellect.

Give it a miss.

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Very thorough

A very thorough and illuminating book, well narrated. The viewpoints from the many Turks interviewed provides another new dimension to the Erdogan character. Interesting to read that his principal rival is Ataturk, who’s been dead 83 years.

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Could be better book.

Bit of a mess of book no much a narrative but good stuff on Turkey

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Many insights, but too sentimentalist

Expected something different from this book, but it is a journalist's, not a scientist's account, so probably cannot complain. While it is based on an impressive amount of interviews and personal experiences of the author, it seemed that there were two books in one. One talking about the rise of Erdogan and the other about something else entirely, while maybe linked to the topic, but only mildly so - mainly the Syrian conflict and the plight of people caught up in it.
It is understandable that it is difficult to disconnect from the terrible suffering of people one meets daily, but it also gives an impression of being unable to stick to the topic. What is said here might also sound like an assessment of a Westerner who just wants to ignore these poor people. Yet, I had a feeling while listening that the author does not help here either, rather feeds into the emotional sentimentalist politics on which all the populists are thriving. Such leaders hide behind the emotional issues, frame everything in the love-hate, excitement-outrage language. This helps them get away with the things that should be at the centre of our attention - abuse of power and corruption that require institutional attention to address. Parts in the book which deal with these issues are the best, but they get drowned, as the moment something serious is presented, the author goes back to talk about Syria and refugees and all those other tragic things. And so it seems that there is nothing one can do about anything and instead of rational understanding of why people like Erdogan rise, we are left with some disconnected tragic stories.

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Diary of a terrorist groupie

The writer seems to have very little emphaty with refugees and that they have been forced from their peaceful lifes. Anything left wing fighters do, is good. While anything Erdogan does is bad. There is a bizarre rant about Lindsay Lohan. But once you get past the bias. The book is very informative.

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Great insight and very interesting

Anyone interested in Turkey, it's history and peoples and cultural mix will be enthralled with this unbiased easy going though detailed commentary. It's focus is inevitably also on recent political history and the huge changes to democracy. No one will be left unaffected and probably saddened with the deep tensions permeating society. The narration is spot on and makes the book what it is with a deep sense of respect and warmth for the Turkish people. One of the top ten audiobooks I have listened to.

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A must-read for anyone interested in Turkey right now

Hannah Lucinda Smith’s book is only the latest new release on Turkey, but it’s absolutely one of the best. An intense, personal book that ties so many different stories together with elegance. It’s narrated by the author, which is rare and valuable. Highly recommended.

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  • Saul M
  • 18-09-20

Overall fascinating profile of Erdogan’s Turkey

The book gives a interesting look inside Erdogan’s Turkey. The author provides quick profiles of key supporters and certain opponents of Erdogan, as well as laying out the political maneuverings of Erdogan. His populism has entrenched his supporters so deep in power that it will take the opposition years to dig out Erdogan’s machine. As an American there are some comparisons to be made with trump, particularly with his opponents. The democrats need to provide an actual alternative vision of America that appeals to the working class instead of being the no vote.

However, some nitpicks in some of the author’s descriptions. One is how she described the YPG military marches as North Korean-like. Personally I found it unnecessary to compare them to North Korea, I’ve seen their marches before and the YPG’s marches aren’t as choreographed as NK’s. I’d like to know why she thinks that they’re North Korean like? Second is when she described the Tsarnaev brothers as Kyrgyz. I had to double take on that because they were Chechen (despite being born in Kyrgyzstan) and identified as such.

Overall a good read.

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  • Aram
  • 28-07-20

Better than I thought it was going to be

The author dances around being a journalist thus impartial versus being a woman, a feminist, a Westerner, an individual, an investigator, a political oracle, a member of the oppressed, and a member of the elite as she tries to make her points.

the author freaks me out a bit because I don't know if I can trust her work, not that need to because I lived in Turkey for 13+ years and speak Turkish at a native level. I don't know if I can trust her because she has brought up some very good points in her book about Turkey but then she calls the United States a liberal democracy which thank God it has never been and will never be. US is a constitutional republic. This is very basic, yet she misses it, but she knows Adnan Menderes' upbringing quite well.

Self contradictory at times but, as I said it is much better than I thought it was going to be. Turkey is not an easy subject.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 15-04-20

Good introduction to Erdogan and present day Turkey’s political seen

Erdogan Rising provides a good overview of Erdogan, the man, and his rise to power. Smith includes profiles on a number of important figures including Atatürk, Davotoglu, Gullen, Öcalan, and a few others who have also shaped modern Turkey and Erdogan’s rise, or at least who shine light on Turkey’s present situation under Erdogan. Smith is a journalist so much of the book is a first person narrative. As such, it occasionally is a bit uneven in terms of its focus, with perhaps too much time devoted to her experience in Syria, as well as the relations between Turkey and her native UK. However, by capturing the stories of a diverse cast of characters (including Atatürk’s last remaining descendants, a man who has taken on a career as an Atatürk impersonator, the founder of Erdogan’s biggest mouthpiece in the media, a member of Turkey’s tiny Jewish community), Smith is able to give a reader a feeling of what Turkey is like in a way that a history book or political sketch cannot. Additionally, her narrating of her work is quite strong with a lot of authenticity in her voice. As someone who did not know much about Turkey before, I recommend this book if someone wants to get an introductory taste of one of the region’s and the world’s most important and fascinating figures as well as the country he increasingly rules with an iron fist.

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  • Ani
  • 04-05-21

Erdoghan is terrorist and dictator.

Erdoghan is a terrorist and he controls ISIS terrorist that he deployed to turkey. He is the new Hitler. Who is this shameless writer who took so much money to write a book on new hitler.

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  • Clare Jenkins
  • 14-05-20

Fascinating, brave & the barer of a sad truth.

An enlightening and deeply informative piece. Perfectly choreographed & would highly recommend to anyone with a passion to further understand this ancient land & 'protector' from the East. Deeply moving. Thank you.

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  • Liv
  • 27-04-20

Fabulous historic, political, and cultural account of Erdoğan’s rise to power!

This is a fabulous historic, political, and cultural account of Erdoğan’s rise to power! It also captures the way he has maneuvered within Turkish culture and redrafted the national narrative well.

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  • Alexander
  • 07-11-19

Best book of it's type on Turkey.

Wonderful look at a fascinating time. Author reads the book, providing accurate pronunciation of Turkish, and has access to a truly remarkable variety of sources.