The Shirt of Flame Review by Halide Edip Adıvar

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Content Summary

We will examine Halide Edip Adıvar’s The Shirt of Flame novel, which was written during the years of the Turkish War of Independence and therefore tells the feelings about that day from the point of view of that day.

The Shirt of Flame Price Comparison

The English edition of the book is incredibly rare and valuable. That’s why it’s hard to find in online marketplaces. This review was made from the Turkish version of the book.

Who is Halide Edip Adıvar?

Halide Edip Adıvar was born in 1884, during the period of II. Abdülhamit, as the daughter of a high-ranking civil servant father and a sensitive mother. She lost her mother due to tuberculosis when she was very young. 

She was educated at the American College and became the first Muslim woman to graduate from this school. After her graduation, she married Salih Zeki Bey, who worked as a mathematics teacher at the same school.

Salih Zeki Bey

Salih Zeki Bey

During her marriage, she helped her husband in the works he wrote. She made translations from Sherlock Holmes and in these years she began to admire Emile Zola.

Halide Edip Adıvar front of the bookshelf

Halide Edip Adıvar front of the bookshelf

In 1908, II. With the proclamation of the Constitutional Monarchy, he started his professional literary life, where he would produce numerous works, mostly narrative. However, in these years when she started writing as a profession, she had to live in Egypt and England for a while because she received death threats for her writings on women’s rights. During her stay in England she established relationships with distinguished journalists and philospher. As a matter of fact, these relations would provide a great support in the future in the transfer of the events in Turkey during the national struggle to the foreign press.

She returned to Turkey in 1909. When his wife, Salih Zeki Bey, wanted to marry a second woman, he left and took part in non-governmental organizations that defend women’s rights. She translated contemporary education books into Turkish. He started to sympathize to Turanism idea with people like Ziya Gökalp, Yusuf Akçura, Hamdullah Suphi.

Adnan Adıvar and Halide Edip Adıvar

Adnan Adıvar and Halide Edip Adıvar

During the I. World War, she held senior positions in education and married their family doctor, Adnan Adıvar.

Atatürk and Halide Edip Adıvar

Atatürk and Halide Edip Adıvar

Although she did not want more bloodshed during the National Struggle, she supported the American Mandate, but when this idea was discussed and strongly rejected at the Sivas Congress, she took her place with Mustafa Kemal and encouraged Anatolian women with the speeches she made all over the country.

She took care of Mustafa Kemal’s editorial affairs during the Turkish War of Independence. With the support of Atatürk, he initiated the establishment of Anadolu Agency together with Yunus Nadi. In this way, both the Anatolian people were informed of the war and the liberation struggle of a people was announced to the world with the influence of previous acquaintances.

Things did not go well for Halide Edip, who was awarded the Medal of Independence after the Turkish War of Independence, due to her husband’s role in the Progressive Republican Party, which emerged as the opposition party, especially in the transition to multi-party life, and she had to move abroad with her husband. He resided for many years in England and France. He gave a series of conferences at prestigious universities in many parts of the world and only returned to Turkey in 1939.

Halide Edip, who was elected as the İzmir deputy from the Democrat Party in 1950, lost her husband in 1955 after leaving politics in 1954, and this pain shook her deeply. When the dates showed 1964, his kidneys began to fail. Now it was his turn to die.

In this review, we will examine one of his best-known works, the novel The Shirt of Flame. Let us first present the summary of the novel.

Summary of The Shirt of Flame

The novel begins when Ayşe, whose husband was killed during the occupation, comes to her aunt in Istanbul. His aunt has a son named Peyami and Peyami has a friend named İhsan, who is a young officer. At that time, the idea of accepting the British or American mandate prevailed in Istanbul. Ayşe opposes this idea. She leaves her aunt’s house. With Peyami and İhsan, they ignited the spirit of the National Struggle, which will begin to burn in Istanbul, and they move to Anatolia, where they will work as a teacher and sometimes a nurse.

a Photograph of Halide Edip Adıvar's Young Years

a Photograph of Halide Edip Adıvar’s Young Years

Both Peyami and İhsan will fall in love with Ayşe. Meanwhile, the Kuva-ı Milliye forces are being tried to form a regular army and the conflicts between the gangs and the army are described.

İhsan and Ayşe lose their lives at the front, but Peyami is treated with a bullet left in his head.

Topic of The Shirt of Flame

Although Peyami is confused from time to time because of the bullet in his head, the novel proceeds in the form of telling what happened during the Turkish War of Independence in his sickbed. Throughout the novel, she tells how the national struggle ignited, the transition process from the Kuva-ı Milliye to the regular army, and most of all, the liberation struggle of this country, “How many lovers this country has left in these desolate Anatolian cemeteries”.

The Shirt of Flame Book Cover from Turkey

The Shirt of Flame Book Cover from Turkey

The Shirt of Flame Quotes

There are wonderful and accurate statements about the male world written with a female sensibility in the book.

“I think I was scared,” I said. Jamal laughed.

“Me too,” he said, and I liked him more for saying that. Because life has taught me that the most cowardly men are those who talk about assertiveness and courage.” – Page 19

Apart from that, since the novel has a responsibility to describe the years of the Turkish War of Independence, it also has parts with thesis, and there is also an approach about minorities there.

“Only those among us who understand that they are not racially Turkish, with a kind of inspiration after the Armistice, are not involved in this work, they are together with their Armenian and Greek brothers…” – Page 24

Since the novel was written during the war, not after the war, it is necessary to examine these perspectives and the agenda of the period. On the other hand, Halide Edip also criticizes the dominant view of women in society. She explains that she is tired of women being a creature left from one place to another, that she is tired of constantly making decisions on their behalf, saying that they should not be hurt or harmed, and that they can do more.

“I love those who want to burden me with not only as much as I can take, but more, who take my hand and drag it into the fire.” – Page 88

The Shirt of Flame General Evaluation 

Peyami, who is lying with a bullet in his head, as the narrator in the novel, this choice took the narrative from a fictional level and transformed it into the memories of a human that witnessed those years, and this was a positive choice for the reader to be convinced of the reality of what was told. However, it should be noted that Peyami, the narrator of the novel, is drawn as a very weak character and the reason for his presence in some places in the novel is not well understood.

Art sometimes undertakes various tasks in big social events. Although The Shirt of Flame novel also aims to describe the years of liberation, sometimes turning into a thesis novel, Halide Edip tried not to stray too far from the narrative while doing this.

Maybe because the novel genre was not yet internalized in those years, there are extreme coincidences such as Peyami’s encounter with a person who could reach her on the ferry while searching for traces of Ayşe in Istanbul. The language, on the other hand, does not promise fluent reading because it is used very pronouns and heavily style.

However, despite all this, the fact that the novel was written during the years of the liberation war offers us a unique experience that allows us to reach the point of view of that day, not later on.


The Shirt of Flame Review
  • Story
  • Fiction
  • Wording
  • Atmosphere

Brielfy My Opinion

Since it was written during the war, not after the war, it is a very important novel despite its flaws to understand the feelings of the period and how the war was felt.

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