The Seamstress of Ourfa

Written by Victoria Harwood Butler-Sloss


It is 1895, Ourfa, a thriving, cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire.

Khatoun Khouri, a girl of thirteen, meets her future husband, Iskender Agha Boghos. Twice her age, a poet, philosopher and dreamer, he adores her but cannot express it in words. Around them, the Ottoman Empire is crumbling, the world heading towards war and the Armenian minority subjected to increasing repression, culminating in the genocide of 1915.

As Iskender retreats into his books and alcohol, losing land, money and business, Khatoun holds their family together by sewing for the wives of the men who persecute them; her creations inciting love, lust and fertility. The family joins the resistance and evades the death marches to the Syrian Desert only to lose everything when exiled by Mustafa Kemal and the birth of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

What follows is a tale of love, loss and redemption in the diaspora told by four generations of women, each becoming the guardian angel of the next.




Rich in Detail and Intricately Woven! 

5 stars

What a read! I’ve been completely immersed in this novel for two whole days and it has been a wonderful experience.

A story told by the women of the family; the ones who, ultimately, care for the generations and make sure everyone is safe. The family dynamics are an eye-opener. Whilst women are uneducated, without even the basic literary skills, they cope with everything which comes their way, keeping a roof over everyone’s heads, food on the table, money coming into the family pot and still have the ability to swell the numbers by looking after those in need. On a personal level, it is an awesome tale – and beautifully told.

The wider picture immerses us in the history of the Ottoman Empire, and with that becomes the reality of how the inhabitants of the region have suffered over the centuries. With modern times showing that not much has changed, this is a compelling read and one which really helps with the understanding of current affairs today. Rich in detail and intricately woven, this is a story like no other and I have been entranced and enchanted by this novel; I’m actually quite sad to have reached the end! It is, in my opinion, quite a masterpiece and one I’m so glad to have chosen to read. Not my usual type of read, but one I wholeheartedly recommend. Certainly not a book I shall forget in a hurry, that’s for sure.

My thanks to Armida Publications for approving my request via NetGalley. This is my honest, original and unbiased review.


Tags: historical, women’s fiction


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 793 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Armida Publications
  • Publication Date: 20 June 2018
  • Purchase Links: Amazon UK
  •                                 Amazon US


Meet the Author



Victoria Harwood Butler-Sloss is half Armenian, half English, brought up in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus. She moved to London at eighteen and began her career as a dancer at the Raymond Revuebar, She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and spent twenty years as an actress, playing a slew of mad, bad, exotic foreigners on British television and performing in the West End, The Royal Court and European tours amongst others. After getting married she moved to LA, started a family, continued to work in voice-overs and wrote her first book, The Seamstress of Ourfa, the first in a trilogy beginning in the Ottoman Empire in 1895 and following four generations of women until the present day.The Seamstress of Ourfa is set to be published in March 2018.

“A Flock of Birds” is her first film as writer/director/producer/DP. Based on a chapter from her book it is based on a family story with a fictional twist. Previously she produced, wrote and appeared in “Cyprus Summer 1974” a short documentary based on a diary she wrote during the coup and subsequent war that divided Cyprus, her home. It also details an exhibition staged in summer 2014, in which the diary was enlarged and displayed to the public.

She is currently working on another project, “Rest in Pieces”, a docudrama about death and what it means to be buried in a cemetery in no man’s land.




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