The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
– Fiction –
reviewed by Amanda
Purchased from publisher
finished reading 7/25/2010
Author’s Website : http://www.elifsafak.com.tr/
This book in 6 words:
Ready to travel to Istanbul now.
Why did I read this? And am I glad I did?
I read this because I thought the story sounded interesting, and I have a former roommate who is from Istanbul, so naturally, I was curious. I’m also taking a class on culture right now, and anything that relates to different cultures in incredibly intriguing to me. I was definitely glad I read this book.
In her second novel written in English, Elif Shafak confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. At its center is the “bastard” of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is a bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction.
I felt that the pacing of this book could have been better. It seems like a lot of the discovery about the families’ pasts took a lot of time to finally get into. I did think that the plot was interesting though, and I loved how intertwined the two families were, even though the story behind it was sad. I probably skimmed over some paragraphs while reading, but I think that had more to do with the pacing than the writing style.
The characters are very entertaining in this book, though, personally, I would have liked to get a closer look into each person’s life and motivations. I did feel like I could have gotten to know the characters – especially the main characters – much better than I did. I gave this book an extra half star because Asya creating her own personal manifesto prompted me to one of my own (my birthday had something to do with it as well).