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From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers, a novel about the tangled histories of two families. 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 t From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers, a novel about the tangled histories of two families. 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.


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From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers, a novel about the tangled histories of two families. 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 t From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers, a novel about the tangled histories of two families. 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.

30 review for The Bastard of Istanbul

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    It was the cover that snared me. Turkey is one of the top three countries on my mental list of countries to visit, along with the Czech Republic and Morocco, and I love Turkish architecture and design. The cover reminded me of those beautiful mosaics and arches and mosques, and then the title! Who could resist? A less impulsive person than me, sure, but this is my idea of living dangerously :) Beautifully, gracefully, vividly written with a light, airy atmosphere that really allows you to breathe It was the cover that snared me. Turkey is one of the top three countries on my mental list of countries to visit, along with the Czech Republic and Morocco, and I love Turkish architecture and design. The cover reminded me of those beautiful mosaics and arches and mosques, and then the title! Who could resist? A less impulsive person than me, sure, but this is my idea of living dangerously :) Beautifully, gracefully, vividly written with a light, airy atmosphere that really allows you to breathe, The Bastard of Istanbul follows the story of two girls and their families, one Turkish, one Armenian American, and how their histories interweave. Asya Kazanci is the bastard daughter of Zeliha, raised by an eccentric group of aunts and grandmothers in Istanbul. Now 19, she spends most of her time listening to Johnny Cash records and philosophising with a group of older, cynical political outcasts at the Cafe Kundera. In Arizona, 19 year old Armanoush "Amy" Tchakhmakhchian bounces between her over-protective American mother Rose and quiet Turkish step-father Mustafa, and her father Barsham's large Armenian family in San Francisco. Struggling to understand herself and what it means to be Armenian, she decides to journey to Turkey and stay with her step-father's family, the Kazanci's. Politics, history, philosophy, religion, and the familiar struggle for personal identity in relation to and against a collective group flesh out this lovely tale, littered with references to popular culture and classic literature. Likened to the work of Amy Tan, Shafak's prose is much more philosophical and lyrical, and her themes are less dramatic for drama's sake. I found all her characters to be instantly recognisable, and I felt that both Asya and Amy to be familiar, and similar, to myself in some ways. I identified with them far more readily than I would reading about a more conventional teenager. The atmosphere is wonderful, from dry Arizona to misty San Francisco to loud, colourful, vibrant Istanbul - made me want to go there even more than before! I could hear and smell and see it all so clearly, though the prose is not overly descriptive. With an omniscient narrator who reveals the inner tortures and idiosyncracies of the characters with a humorous but sympathetic touch, the narrative goes back and forth in time, skilfully revealing the past as it corresponds to the present, creating a tapestry as detailed and vivid as a Turkish carpet. I loved all the aunts too, with their quirks and Banu's djinni. Yes, there's a touch of magic realism in this book that serves it well. The conflict between Turks and Armenians, the denial of the Armenian genocide which, I believe, is still keeping Turkey out of the EU, is dealt with with a great deal of compassion and understanding. Shafak makes an effort to show different arguments, as in, why the Turks are so ignorant of this history and why the Armenians are so stubborn to relive it. There was a wonderful quote about that but sadly I didn't mark the page and now I can't find it. This was a random find in the bookshop and an absolute gem to read, and I highly recommend it. On a side note, the author mentions that the book was first released in Turkey in 2006 (she wrote it in both Turkish and English) and she was facing up to three years in jail because some of the things the Turkish characters said went against the nation, something like that, but the charges were dropped. Still, it's a bit scary, but also fascinating - Turkey is arguably one of the more liberal Muslim states, by western standards, where women have rights and opportunities, but where conservative traditions still play a heavy hand in domestic affairs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amrita

    The book suffers due to its trite language, stereotypical characterization, and unsubtle plot. You end up not really caring for any of the characters, and wishing that the two deep questions - the Armenian genocide and the Turkish identity pre and post Ataturk, had been painted on a more deserving canvas...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fatma

    I love Elif Safak and I liked this book. She makes her characters so alive when writing, good are not always good, bad are not always bad, there is beauty and poison in all of us at times. It is only a matter of how we use it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    The lines are beautiful. The humor is priceless. The questions are numerous. One example being: what is the value of truth? Is truth always to be sought, AT ALL COSTS? because: "the past is anything but bygone." and as Elif Shafak also so eloquently speaks: "Once there was. Once there wasn't. God's creatures were as plentiful as grains and talking too much was a sin, for you could tell what you shouldn't remember and you could remember what you shouldn't tell." The humor - I adored the depiction of Fre The lines are beautiful. The humor is priceless. The questions are numerous. One example being: what is the value of truth? Is truth always to be sought, AT ALL COSTS? because: "the past is anything but bygone." and as Elif Shafak also so eloquently speaks: "Once there was. Once there wasn't. God's creatures were as plentiful as grains and talking too much was a sin, for you could tell what you shouldn't remember and you could remember what you shouldn't tell." The humor - I adored the depiction of French cuisine at a restaurant where each plate was composed as a known work of art. Could you dig into a Chagall, Magritte or a Mogdigliani portrait? As Asya describes her family, "this must be a nut-house". But aren't we all nuts?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anca

    Wow! This was something! I have to admit I missed the feeling of oneness in a book. Right after I finnished it (& took a deep breath), I turned on my computer determined to read more about the author, the story, ideas, opinions. I like to do that when I don't want a book to end. Unfortunately, I got to an old conclussion of mine again: critique and dissection of the book has no charm. I clicked on some links and there I had! opinions about how characters evolve and how the novel is built, even c Wow! This was something! I have to admit I missed the feeling of oneness in a book. Right after I finnished it (& took a deep breath), I turned on my computer determined to read more about the author, the story, ideas, opinions. I like to do that when I don't want a book to end. Unfortunately, I got to an old conclussion of mine again: critique and dissection of the book has no charm. I clicked on some links and there I had! opinions about how characters evolve and how the novel is built, even criticism for too many characters (?!) and so less about the great feeling of the book. For me, this was a bit of fresh air after a lot of mediocre novels of this type. If I started reading a few pages at my breakfast, I would regret putting it down and heading to my day intrigued on how familiar I am with the characters and how eager for more I am. Not just for the idea of reading, but for what the book itself brought to me. Enough with that. I'm gonna put down a few of my obs, they are a lot more and not so well structured. But if you want to read a clear and good review about this book, with analysis between the characters and all that, you won't find it here, search somewhere else, my review is a long hotchpoten of personal and subjective impressions over the book. Anyway, you'd better read a few interviews of Elif Shafak (liked this one:http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rgu... ) - lot less boring and blurred than interviews about a book with its author usually are. First thing that impressed me was the name of the chapters whose significance we only get later on the book [spoiler: the ingredients for a turkish dessert: ashure]. Although I did not understand what was the author following in the beginning, I was thrilled by her consistency in placing little details to point to the chapter's name. That was smth special I haven't met in any other book - so it added to the book's flavour. Then the style: though I read it in Romanian, so I can't tell how good it is in English, nothing sounded false to me, the prose flew on and hooked me in and I finnally got rid of that obsession of mine to look at words and sentences and nod: hmm, is it the translation or why does this sound so awkward and fake? [i bet it's the author!;):]. So I had that childish joy of reading a book again. The characters were very very interesting: the Aunties were intriguing each with its particularity and still with that tolerance that made them able to live together. The girls- Asya, the nihilist impressed me with her slowness and blackness, mostly for her freedom of adopting them and stand by them. I resonated with her refuse to accept the past as part of her, her wish to leave a big blank spot behind and stay in that moment with nothing to be charged for. I admired her force of thinking, honestly; I don't think it's improbable for a 19 years old to think deep. At the opposite: Armanoush, living with her ancestor's memories and history tied up to her life, decided to find her roots by taking a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, the city her forebears' old enemies, the Turks lived in. She believed that returning there would help her find herself in between her mother's hate for Armeanian culture and her father's Armenian origins. Finally, she finds a balance between the two-she banished the typical Armenian hate for Turks while being faithful to her origin, trying to bring illumination in her stepfather's family regarding the Armenian genocide, long ignored by the Turk Repubilc. A quote that IMO describes the realistic state of things:“Just like the Turks have been in the habit of denying their wrongdoing, the Armenians have been in the habit of savoring the cocoon of victimhood” (p. 263) Baron Baghdasarian. The cultural exchange between the girls was interesting to observe: each had a different stand to life but shared with the other one without notching the other one's. [asya/j.cash-armanoush/books:] The ending was unexpected, the final third brings the full view over the two families and teh connection between their histories. Despite that, there wasn't any noticeable rush -it was just how things evolved(maybe a liiitle improbable). The multiple leaps in time and space where effective for the atmosphere. The paragraphs from the child's book and the pieces of the families' history intercalated with Mostapha's arrival in Istanbul and, in the end, his death brouhgt up the rootless tree that man was. A symbol I noticed: The tattoo Aram wanted to have and got refused by Auntie Zeliha: an upside down tree with its roots in the air it's a perfect definition of instability of Asya, the bastard with the no-name father and the stability seeked by Armanoush. Also, I liked that Shafak lined up the lifestyle of the bohemian intellectuals of Turkey and how the history is a big void even to them. Cafe Kundera had a very very worm atmosphere-the at. of a place where things are tendious and repetitive, where people go and lose themselves in one of the photos with a road hanged on the wall in front of them. The city of Istanbul with its flavours and smells and overall, the importance of the food and spices in this book was such a delight bringer.. In the end, all characters were so properly left in the history that I don't want to know what happens next though I wouldn't have minded to stick with them a little more. Of course, there are a lot more I left out, but I'll place them in my personal notes, i don't think anyone resists to read my chaotic review to the end.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    A florid hodgepodge of a book, The Bastard of Istanbul is too weak a novel to deal fruitfully with the issues it raises—the Armenian genocide of 1915; nationalism; how to navigate through your identity as the child of immigrants—and Shafak's ambition doesn't match her execution. It's cluttered and unfocused, and Shafak's characters fail to come alive beneath the weight of symbolism and stereotypes she heaps on them. The climactic revelations of the novel are also quite far-fetched and felt very A florid hodgepodge of a book, The Bastard of Istanbul is too weak a novel to deal fruitfully with the issues it raises—the Armenian genocide of 1915; nationalism; how to navigate through your identity as the child of immigrants—and Shafak's ambition doesn't match her execution. It's cluttered and unfocused, and Shafak's characters fail to come alive beneath the weight of symbolism and stereotypes she heaps on them. The climactic revelations of the novel are also quite far-fetched and felt very manufactured. The one aspect of the novel I did strongly like, though, was the one area where Shafak didn't fall into stereotypes: depicting the multicultural, cosmopolitan nature of Istanbul, showing its mixed European and Middle Eastern influences, its secularists and its devout Muslims.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    The Bastard of Istanbul is a book with a lot of deep layers, not immediately visible when one starts reading the book. What one takes to be the story of two families - one Turkish, one Armenian, linked together in a convoluted way - in the best tradition of the "family drama" slowly metamorphoses into a tale full of the magic of the metaphor. While showing us the face of the modern Istanbul, a city of contradictions, it also pulls us deeply into its past; romantic and anguishing at the same time The Bastard of Istanbul is a book with a lot of deep layers, not immediately visible when one starts reading the book. What one takes to be the story of two families - one Turkish, one Armenian, linked together in a convoluted way - in the best tradition of the "family drama" slowly metamorphoses into a tale full of the magic of the metaphor. While showing us the face of the modern Istanbul, a city of contradictions, it also pulls us deeply into its past; romantic and anguishing at the same time. Teenager Asya Kazanci is the eponymous "bastard" of the novel. Born to the rebellious Zeliha, the youngest daughter of the Kazanci family, the truth of who her father is kept a close secret by her mother. Asya lives in a family of "aunties" - her mothers three elder sisters, and her mother herself, all of whom she addresses as aunties. There are also her Grandma Gulsum and her great-grandmother Petite-Ma. The aunties are characters by themselves. The eldest, Auntie Banu, is a soothsayer, having two djinni (one good and one evil) at her beck and call. The second auntie, Cevriye, is a history teacher and an academic intellectual. The third auntie, Feride, is a sort of visionary schizophrenic. And finally, Auntie Zeliha is a tattooist and a rebel. The menfolk of the Kazanci family apparently suffer from a strange sort of curse which prevent them from surviving beyond middle age - a fate which has overtaken Banu's children in their childhood itself. All the Kazanci women are either divorced, separated, widowed or unmarried. The only male in the family is Mustafa, brother to all the aunties, who has relocated to Arizona and is only in sporadic touch with his family for two decades now. Into this dysfunctional family, Armanoush ("Amy") Tchakhmakhchian, the offspring of a divorced couple, an Armenian father and an American mother - and the stepdaughter of Mustafa. Amy is fighting ghosts from her own past: or rather, the collective past of the Armenians, whose life is largely controlled by the memories of the genocide perpetrated on them by the Ottoman regime in the 1920s. Her trip to Istanbul, unknown to both her parents, is her way of coming to terms with the historical baggage dumped on her head without her consent. As the girls bond together in the exhilarating and frustrating Istanbul, it becomes the melding of two nations; one with a geography without a history, and the other with only history and no geography. And it also becomes a tale of two families, tied together by unseen threads across time and space, threads unravelled by Auntie Banu using her methods which reside outside the time-space continuum. As the story moves on to its inevitable tragic conclusion, the reader is left with a sense of completion which goes beyond tragedy and comedy. *** Why is the novel given this particular title? 'Bastard' means a child born out of wedlock; it implies someone having no legitimacy in a patriarchal society. In that sense, Asya is a bastard in more ways than one. She lacks a father, and her culture lacks a history, something which is brought home to her brutally through her friendship with Armanoush and her anonymous, online Armenian friends. This unlikely friendship creates in her a sense of forgotten cultural roots (at the same time making Amy realise that she must learn to live more in the present). And at the end of the story, with the revelation of who her biological father is, Asya comes to realise the full depth of her personal tragedy - something which is symptomatic of the rootless Istanbulite society in general, the author seems to be hinting. And why Istanbul? Because this city, the meeting point of two cultures, the "open-air history museum" (as the locals like to call it), this city with 3600+ mosques and a 99% Muslim population, this city with its raki-swilling men and its mini-skirt-wearing tattooed women, this city with its obsession with food, wine and sex - it is this magical place which is the heroine of this novel. It is past dawn now. A short step away from that uncanny threshold between nighttime and daylight. The only time of the day when it is early enough to harbor hopes of realising one's dreams but far too late to actually dream, the land of Morpheus now flung far away. Allah's eye is omnipotent and omniscient; it is the eye that never closes, or even blinks. But still no one can tell for sure if the earth is equally omniobservable. If this is a stage wherein spectacle after spectacle is displayed for the Celestial Gaze, there might be times in between when the curtains are down and a gauzy head scarf covers the surface of a silver bowl. Istanbul is the hodgepodge of ten million lives. It is an open book of ten million scrambled stories. Istanbul is waking up from its perturbed sleep, ready for the chaos of the rush hour. From now on there are too many prayers to answer, too many profanities to note, and too many sinners, as well as too many innocents, to keep an eye on. Already it is morning in Istanbul.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    The mordant gap between the children of those who managed to stay and the children of those who had to leave. If there's one story the media in the United States should be having conniptions over right now, it's that of Mike Brown. Not Ebola, not Ukraine, not even Robin Williams, for if that man was half of the good things I've heard since depression killed him, he wouldn't want the tears of those who believe yet another black person deserved to die at the hands of white law enforcement. Ther The mordant gap between the children of those who managed to stay and the children of those who had to leave. If there's one story the media in the United States should be having conniptions over right now, it's that of Mike Brown. Not Ebola, not Ukraine, not even Robin Williams, for if that man was half of the good things I've heard since depression killed him, he wouldn't want the tears of those who believe yet another black person deserved to die at the hands of white law enforcement. There's no nation quite like the US when it comes to handling the genocide card; it makes for a much messier state of things than this book's portrayal of the cosmopolitan memory of the Armenian genocide committed by the Turkish, but the indoctrination is there, the view of abroad versus the focus of at home is there, and the compromise, oh, the compromise. The compromise is there, with no answers to tuck you in at night. The word 'genocide' hadn't existed in concrete fullness on April 24, 1915, much as there is no singular term for what Wikipedia calls "government neglect, unfavorable social policies, high poverty rates, changes implemented in the criminal justice system and laws, and...extremely high incarceration rates" within its 'Social issues' section of the 'Post-Civil Rights Era in African-American history'. Words, words, words, all of which imply a both sides to the story and refuse to even touch upon the body count or the unwillingness of drivers in Portland, Oregon, to stop for black pedestrians in crosswalks with no traffic lights, twice as likely to keep on going and make them wait of fear for their lives. I don't invoke this as a metaphor for the relations of Armenians and Turkish people in this day and age, but as a personal reminder of the latest link in a history of oppression in my own country. Şafak doesn't solve the issues faced by oppressors and oppressed; she starts a conversation, and within my own means, I will follow. Am I responsible for my father's crime? A Girl Named Turk asked. You are responsible for recognizing your father's crime, Anti-Khavurma replied. I will admit, I wish she had gone further, rather than bring forward another age old incarnation of patriarchal violation that I am far more comfortable in my stance towards. I wish she had continued her wonderfully modern take on American-centric stereotypes, her portrayal of today's Istanbul with all its novelties all the more intriguing for their familiarity and feminism, her discussions of existentialism and Eastern European literature that never felt the need to wrap themselves in esoteric pomposity. I wish she had continued that Internet chat quoted above, just one example of the many I have had online regarding oppression, social justice, what I as a white inheritor of protection what must do with such skin-deep privilege. Futile wishes, for her heritage is not mine, and yet how wonderful it is to encounter a modern author refusing to be silent, taking on the technological inundation in a world founded on millenia of might makes right. "I admire philosophy," Asya conceded. "But that doesn't necessarily mean I agree with the philosophers." I have hope for contemporary literature, and indeed the literature for the future, because of books such as these. Pretty prose has its perks, but I'll chose an unflinchingly progressive state of story over dehumanizing jargon any day.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Saadia B. || CritiConscience

    Full of suspense, wittiness and cleverly written. The Bastard of Istanbul is a story of two girls Asya and Armanoush (Amy) who are connected with one another in terms of their family linkage yet are very distinctive as characters. Asya is born out of wedlock to Zeliha (a tattoo artist) hence called as the bastard, whereas Amy was born in America to an Armenian father and an American mother, Rose. However their marriage didn’t last much and they separated when Amy was a small kid. Amy curious to Full of suspense, wittiness and cleverly written. The Bastard of Istanbul is a story of two girls Asya and Armanoush (Amy) who are connected with one another in terms of their family linkage yet are very distinctive as characters. Asya is born out of wedlock to Zeliha (a tattoo artist) hence called as the bastard, whereas Amy was born in America to an Armenian father and an American mother, Rose. However their marriage didn’t last much and they separated when Amy was a small kid. Amy curious to know more about her roots decides to go to Istanbul and also to find out more about the Turks, who forced Armenians, including her grandmother’s family to flee during the 1915 deportation and massacre. Her stepfather Mustafa was a Turk and had his family (sisters, mother and grandmother) in Istanbul; Amy goes and lives with them without informing her mother and father. When her paternal grandmother dies, her secret comes out as her father calls her mother to give the news. Then they call Amy and decide to fly to Istanbul to get her. Mustafa who for the last 20 years haven’t visited his family is dreading the decision but gives in because of his wife. Zeliha never told anyone about Asya’s father not even to her family. But her older sister Banu finds out and when Mustafa comes back she poisons him because he was the one who raped his sister Zeliha and made her pregnant with Asya. On Mustafa’s funeral, Zeliha reveals the secret to Asya that he was her father. Banu didn’t regret her decision to poison Mustafa because of his deed and that he deserved such an end. Though the title of the book is catchy and attention grabbing, the story is more about everyone else than Asya, the bastard. Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    Another one that is difficult to assess and review. There are elements of this family story set in Istanbul and America that I liked a lot - the characters are strong, quirky and memorable, the historical parts about the role of the Armenian community in the development of Istanbul and the Turkish regime's denial of their role in the Armenian genocide are brave and important. On the other hand some chapters felt rushed and too often resorted to cliche, for example the phrase "swearing like a troo Another one that is difficult to assess and review. There are elements of this family story set in Istanbul and America that I liked a lot - the characters are strong, quirky and memorable, the historical parts about the role of the Armenian community in the development of Istanbul and the Turkish regime's denial of their role in the Armenian genocide are brave and important. On the other hand some chapters felt rushed and too often resorted to cliche, for example the phrase "swearing like a trooper" appears on page 1. This may be partly because English is not Shafak's first language - writing in English gave her the freedom to be more daring politically and overall I think it works.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lavinia

    Entertaining? Yes. Lively characters? Absolutely. Page turner? By all means. It is what I call the perfect book for holiday. One might as well consider Middlesex and The Kite Runner, not only for the captivating stories but also for the multi-cultural (Turkish-American, Armenian-American, Greek-American, Afghan-American whatever-American) incursion into people's and countries' past and present political / economical / social situation. Beyond the complicated relationships (which got on my nerves Entertaining? Yes. Lively characters? Absolutely. Page turner? By all means. It is what I call the perfect book for holiday. One might as well consider Middlesex and The Kite Runner, not only for the captivating stories but also for the multi-cultural (Turkish-American, Armenian-American, Greek-American, Afghan-American whatever-American) incursion into people's and countries' past and present political / economical / social situation. Beyond the complicated relationships (which got on my nerves a little bit - the soapy part) and the interesting characters (Zeliha was my favourite, if any doubts), I felt the book as being mostly about Istanbul, a character in itself, torn between two continents and two mentalities, trying to cope with the present and be a cosmopolitan city of the 21st century but still struggling to preserve national identity and values. While reading, I remembered this documentary about the music of Istanbul, so if you're interested in having a treat for your eyes and ears, give it a try. P.S. The gourmand in me was not necessarily pleased (I haven't come to terms with Arabic food yet, though I remember cooking a Libyan recipe once) but challenged. The one thing everybody gets enough of is food, wherever they are: Istanbul, Arizona or California. And if you are really willing and a lot into spices and stuff like that you can mentally combine all the flavours and ingredients and come up with a really satisfied nose :)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    We need more popular fiction that depicts other aspects of Muslim life than the narrative of women's oppression that has become all too familiar. Though this book is a useful addition to that category, it falls short; the writing and plotting frequently feel forced, and some of the characters seem like nothing so much as convenient vehicles to carry out plot points. If the writing were consistently strong, this could be more easily overlooked, but there were too many times when I felt like the a We need more popular fiction that depicts other aspects of Muslim life than the narrative of women's oppression that has become all too familiar. Though this book is a useful addition to that category, it falls short; the writing and plotting frequently feel forced, and some of the characters seem like nothing so much as convenient vehicles to carry out plot points. If the writing were consistently strong, this could be more easily overlooked, but there were too many times when I felt like the author was writing with a dictionary and thesaurus at their elbow. I have no problem with novels with impressive vocabulary, but I am a firm believer that the word must be chosen because it is the right one; there's no need to use verdant when green would be better. When the choice of words draws too many questions as to why one was picked over another, it becomes distracting, the flow is lost and one becomes more aware of other things. (It's akin to using the wrong lighting for photograph; it can make other things in the picture too easily discernible.) The entanglement of a complicated geopolitical history (of Turkey and Armenia) is too closely related to the interpersonal drama of the novel, and the coincidences become almost cloying at times. I didn't dislike this book, but I really wanted to like it more than I did. I saw the shocking revelation at its end coming somewhere before the middle of the book. At the end of it all, I felt like I'd been hit over the head with A MESSAGE, while simultaneously unsatisfied with the lack of resolution or probing of what that lack might mean.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    A beautiful, entangled tale of a Turkish and Armenian family coming to terms with their past, rooted in the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century, and set mostly in a real, beautiful and gritty Istanbul. It’s a passionate story told with whimsy, humor and beauty in its portrayal of both love and unimaginable suffering. — Kareem Shaheen from The Best Books We Read In September 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/10/03/riot-r... A beautiful, entangled tale of a Turkish and Armenian family coming to terms with their past, rooted in the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century, and set mostly in a real, beautiful and gritty Istanbul. It’s a passionate story told with whimsy, humor and beauty in its portrayal of both love and unimaginable suffering. — Kareem Shaheen from The Best Books We Read In September 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/10/03/riot-r...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09nrvtb Description: Two families - one Turkish, the other Armenian-American - are bound by the same horrific past. One rainy afternoon in Istanbul, a nineteen-year-old, unmarried woman walks into a doctor's surgery. "I need to have an abortion," she announces. Twenty years later, Asya Kazanci lives with her extended family in Istanbul. All the Kanzanci men die early, victims of a mysterious family curse, so this is a household of women. Among them are Asya's beaut http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09nrvtb Description: Two families - one Turkish, the other Armenian-American - are bound by the same horrific past. One rainy afternoon in Istanbul, a nineteen-year-old, unmarried woman walks into a doctor's surgery. "I need to have an abortion," she announces. Twenty years later, Asya Kazanci lives with her extended family in Istanbul. All the Kanzanci men die early, victims of a mysterious family curse, so this is a household of women. Among them are Asya's beautiful, rebellious mother Zeliha, her clairvoyant aunt Banu and their eccentric sister Feride, as well as the ageing Petit Ma. They are ruled over by the iron will of matriarch Gulsum. Into the midst of this madhouse comes Asya's determined American cousin Armanoush, who unknowingly brings with her long-hidden family secrets inextricably linked to Turkey's turbulent past. 2018 is only one month old and, un-planned, this is my third Turkish encounter: 5* Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali 2* The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk 4* The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak This, at a time when Erdogan is trying, again, to exterminate every Kurd, and threatening everyone who mentions the Armenian genocide.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    The writing in this one was great, but the story feel flat for me. It was both too much and too little. There was a lot of extraneous material as it seemed like the author was in love with this Turkish family and just wanted to tell us all about them. There could have been more focus on the relationship of the characters and the Armenian genocide. I felt it wasn’t sufficiently woven into the story, except for some coincidental plot points.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Blanca Mazón

    Hi, this is my first review. I am actually still reading this book, but it has caught me. Elilf Shafak is a wonderful story-teller, in the tradition of John Irving. Not only does interest you everything happening to the characters, but she brings a very political and critical touch to the story. For those looking forward to knowing more about Turkey and its problematic position between Europe and Asia. Wonderful book, lovely written and emotional, too, without becoming sentimental. A couple of da Hi, this is my first review. I am actually still reading this book, but it has caught me. Elilf Shafak is a wonderful story-teller, in the tradition of John Irving. Not only does interest you everything happening to the characters, but she brings a very political and critical touch to the story. For those looking forward to knowing more about Turkey and its problematic position between Europe and Asia. Wonderful book, lovely written and emotional, too, without becoming sentimental. A couple of days later.... Now I have finished the book and wouldn't like to bring any spoilers, I just can say, please read it. Elif Shafak was put on trial for "denigrating Turkishness" in this book. The charges were brought against her due to the words that some characters spoke. How crazy is that that an author is sentenced to a 3-year prison (charges were eventually dropped, but she goes on living in fear) because a character is saying this or that? Writing means freedom and only for that reason we should read these books, as well as Roberto Saviano's Gomorrra, etc. We should do it as a gesture of rebellion against those trying to tell us how to think. But back to the surreal charges, I only can bring Simone Signoret's words when she was asked if she could play a fascist woman in a movie and she answered: “I am willing to play a fascist woman in an antifascist film, but I will never play an antifascist woman in a fascist film". You can't find better words. It doesn't matter if Ms Shafak thinks like the character she is depicting, that is not the point at all, but even if she does, there is no reason to put her on trial for that. I can only say, read the book and have your own opinion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amal Bedhyefi

    Having only read 2 of her books and not being able to write a review on the Forty Rules of love ( because i Loved it and hated it at the same time ) , Elif leaves me once again , mind blown . How she managed to adress all these issues so beautifully yet bitterly really astonished me. Her use of diction , life-like characters , humour , sarcasm , strong metaphors/symbols , historical backround and bittersweet events made me value this book , and therefore , the one who wrote it. The Bastard of Istan Having only read 2 of her books and not being able to write a review on the Forty Rules of love ( because i Loved it and hated it at the same time ) , Elif leaves me once again , mind blown . How she managed to adress all these issues so beautifully yet bitterly really astonished me. Her use of diction , life-like characters , humour , sarcasm , strong metaphors/symbols , historical backround and bittersweet events made me value this book , and therefore , the one who wrote it. The Bastard of Istanbul is such a unique story that i'm sure not a lot of people would appreciate due to its controversial historical mentioning of the Armenian Genocide / the Turks Vs. the Armenians everlasting heated debate , or simply because of the horrible rape event . However , I think that's the whole point about writing fiction , it is being able to reveal things that are intimidating for others in the form of a story , just like Rudyard Kipling once said 'If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.' & Let's not forget Elif's intriguing yet heart pounding style of writing that makes you want to devour each page in order to get to the end. In fact , I was so taken away by the chapter's names and their significance that i couldn't help but release a sigh of relief not when i got their meaning but also when i got the symbolc meaning or the truth behind the use of ' ashure'. This novel will , without any doubt , will stay with me forever . And guess what ? this is , too , amongst 'my favourite books of all times ' list and Elif is most certainly one of my favourite authors.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Karl-O

    While I take my hat off for the commendable intentions and courage of Shafak for writing this book, the literary merit of this work, as far as I can judge, is close to nil. Dull characters, repetitious quasi-jokes, jagged storylines, essay-like prose (where you can clearly see through her ideology) fill the pages of this book and make reading it close to torture. And no redemption really with the ending. No, quite the contrary: It makes things really worse. Things I didn't appreciate at all: - B While I take my hat off for the commendable intentions and courage of Shafak for writing this book, the literary merit of this work, as far as I can judge, is close to nil. Dull characters, repetitious quasi-jokes, jagged storylines, essay-like prose (where you can clearly see through her ideology) fill the pages of this book and make reading it close to torture. And no redemption really with the ending. No, quite the contrary: It makes things really worse. Things I didn't appreciate at all: - Being bombarded with food names of Turkish and Armenian origin where I became literally stuffed to the point hating these otherwise delicious dishes. - The occasional name-dropping like Nihilism, Existentialism, Kundera without any serious, or even non-serious discussion to hold them. - The lame Magical Realism which is just used as a cheap device to drive forward the otherwise stagnant plot. - The preposterous and fantastical coincidence in the heart of the book that insults any mildy-intelligent reader. - Too much stress on the question of Alcohol in Turkey. Ok, now I really, really, really know that Turks drink alcohol with no religious qualms. - The buried-alive feeling every time I read the words "dipsomaniac," "the non nationalist scenarist of ultra nationalist movies," and "the unusually untalented poet". The one point I somewhat appreciated: How Shafak shows that as the present is dictated by the past, those not at all happy in the present because of their past tend to focus rather too much on the latter, whereas those who are doing (and feeling) OK prefer to ignore it, especially when it is inconvenient.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    "Separation can be a form of connection. Writing in English creates a cognitive distance between me and the culture I come from; paradoxically, this enables me to take a closer look at Turkey and Turkishness." (Elif Shafak) I am usually rating my books without taking into consideration whether I like the author or not. In this case I will make an exception (please forgive my weakness): If I only rated the literary qualities, I would give this book three stars. The fourth star is an expression of "Separation can be a form of connection. Writing in English creates a cognitive distance between me and the culture I come from; paradoxically, this enables me to take a closer look at Turkey and Turkishness." (Elif Shafak) I am usually rating my books without taking into consideration whether I like the author or not. In this case I will make an exception (please forgive my weakness): If I only rated the literary qualities, I would give this book three stars. The fourth star is an expression of my sympathy towards the author and her message: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjX8d...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Pool

    Synopsis “the average Turk had no notion of continuity with his or her ancestors” (164). Elif Shafak shines a light on the Armenian genocide (1915-7). centered around the fictional Tchakhmakhchian and Stamboulian families the story highlights continued denial in Turkey of crimes committed by previous generations. It is serious stuff, and in a fictional format the story ponders on whether younger generations will look at the past with fresh eyes. Highlights * The Kazanci sisters (Banu, Cevriye, Fe Synopsis “the average Turk had no notion of continuity with his or her ancestors” (164). Elif Shafak shines a light on the Armenian genocide (1915-7). centered around the fictional Tchakhmakhchian and Stamboulian families the story highlights continued denial in Turkey of crimes committed by previous generations. It is serious stuff, and in a fictional format the story ponders on whether younger generations will look at the past with fresh eyes. Highlights * The Kazanci sisters (Banu, Cevriye, Feride) are a disparate lot, but their collective support of one another totally convinced me. This could be read as a feminist tract. Their menfolk are for the most part revealed to be great disappointments. *Armanoush Tchakhmakhchian and Asya Kazanci. Characterisation that works well both at the individual level, also as their friendship develops, and finally as the prism through which their wider family backgrounds are contrasted. * Chapter headings and the use of food. Ashure, Pistachios, Pine Nuts, Almonds, Dried Apricots, and so on for each chapter of the book. This simple device metaphorically flavours the setting in Istanbul. Lowlights 1. The explanation of the Tchakhmakhchian dynastic diaspora is rather too complex. 2. The main twist is signposted too obviously, and doesn’t altogether convince once the truth is revealed. 3. Rose from Kentucky seems to have wandered into the wrong novel. Historical and/or Literary context When does an Elif Shafak novel not have a serious central message at its heart?. The Ottoman Empire and the views of the traditionalists in Turkey are well woven into the narrative. The Armenian revolution of 1908 - The Young Turks; The Adana massacres of 1909, the deportations of 1915. As an introduction to Turkish history, I found this fascinating. There’s a list of 15 questions to identify how Armenian you are! (15) I hadn’t come across the Janissaries before. Troops recruited mostly from ranks of non-Muslim population in the areas Turkey conquered. Their dedication to Ottoman cause was total as they were given opportunity to become most influential. *Armanoush is a bibliophile, and not for the first time in her novels, Shafak gives us a personal favourite selection (it differs in each book of hers- Shafak like many successful writers is very extensively read)(96): • The Aleph & Other Stories • A Confederacy of Dunces • A Frolic of His Own • The Management of Grief • Borges Collected Fictions • Narciss and Goldmund • The Mambo Kings • Play Songs of Love • Landscape Painted with Tea • Yellow Woman • A Beauty of the Spirit • Milan Kundera • The Book of Laughter and Forgetting • Life is Elsewhere Author background & Reviews This book is one of a select few to attract attention outside of and beyond literature circles. Elif Shafak in her own words: After the publication of my novel The Bastard of Istanbul, I was put on trial in Turkey for “insulting Turkishness”. No one knew what that meant. But as a writer, if you question the official history, and care about minorities, which is exactly what I did, you are automatically accused of “insulting Turkishness”. My novel tells the story of a Turkish and Armenian-American family. It talks about memory and amnesia. I was prosecuted for using the term ‘Armenian genocide’. My Turkish lawyer had to defend my Armenian fictional characters in the courtroom. It was quite Kafkaesque. Recommend The charge levied against Elif Shafak is that her writing is so overtly polemical that it loses something at the sentence level. I think that’s unfair, and the believable human stories, built around the seriousness of the historical amnesia that is at its heart, made for a great read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Elif Shafalk is a master of contrast and of clear, sometimes even ridiculously exaggerated characters. In Istanbul, the city of contrasts, there lives a family consisting of four sisters. Each of them is different as earth and air, and as fire and water. With them, there lives a girl, the titular bastard, who grows-up influenced by all those“forces of nature”. Time passes, the girl becomes a young woman. As a result of series of coincidences another young woman enters their lives and with her a ce Elif Shafalk is a master of contrast and of clear, sometimes even ridiculously exaggerated characters. In Istanbul, the city of contrasts, there lives a family consisting of four sisters. Each of them is different as earth and air, and as fire and water. With them, there lives a girl, the titular bastard, who grows-up influenced by all those“forces of nature”. Time passes, the girl becomes a young woman. As a result of series of coincidences another young woman enters their lives and with her a century old conflict between the Turks (the Othman empire) and the Armenians. When the people representing both sides of the conflict come together, the issues of forgiveness and guilt come to light. What would be the appropriate way forward? Admission of guilt? Asking forgiveness? And do the descendants bear responsibility for the actions of their forefathers anyway? And what about modern Turkey? Is it the same country as it was a hundred years ago? Those are important issues and what I believe Elif Shafalk is trying to say is that the past cannot be changed, but the future can, and it is all about accepting the differences. Depending on your intent, you can pour lead and either see the divine messages, or only the intricate shapes formed by metal on water. It is all there, for the taking.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon

    Unimpressive. The author takes on an ambitious story and topic, but botches the execution (I actually thought it was a bad translation, before I realised it was just badly written) and hits you repeatedly over the head with the "moral" of the story, even spelling it out explicitly at the end. She's clearly read a lot of Rushdie and Kundera, but what is rendered magical in the hands of the masters is chunky and overdressed in the hands of Shafak. Why does every character and cafe have to have a q Unimpressive. The author takes on an ambitious story and topic, but botches the execution (I actually thought it was a bad translation, before I realised it was just badly written) and hits you repeatedly over the head with the "moral" of the story, even spelling it out explicitly at the end. She's clearly read a lot of Rushdie and Kundera, but what is rendered magical in the hands of the masters is chunky and overdressed in the hands of Shafak. Why does every character and cafe have to have a quirky backstory or feature that tells you very little? Why the Rushdieesque focus on noses and other hereditary features? Some fantastic misuses of English words (a rift between two cars narrows to a hairbreadth?! A _rift_??!!), some impressively under-developed characters, a "big reveal" that isn't all that surprising, and not very much plot, all to drive home a political point (okay) and the lesson, surprising to noone, that events in the past have knock-on effects on the future. I interrupted another book to read this, and had to force myself to get through it. Happily free again.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    If you're interested in the Middle East and/or Turkish history and/or the Armenian genocide, this book is likely for you. If you're not, it's not a bad book, but great stretches of it may bore you. I really enjoyed the characters and would've liked to have known them better and had less of those historical details. It made the book more of a slog. There were sections that read like a five or very close, but also great swathes of boredom and feeling like I'm being hit over the head so the author If you're interested in the Middle East and/or Turkish history and/or the Armenian genocide, this book is likely for you. If you're not, it's not a bad book, but great stretches of it may bore you. I really enjoyed the characters and would've liked to have known them better and had less of those historical details. It made the book more of a slog. There were sections that read like a five or very close, but also great swathes of boredom and feeling like I'm being hit over the head so the author could make a Point. Which wasn't what I was looking for. The audio performance was also just meh. Next!

  24. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    'The Bastard of Istanbul' by Elif Shafak is primarily about three interconnected 21st-century families who are separated after the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the Turks in Turkey. The Kazanci family, in Istanbul: Gülsüm, the mother of the women: -Banu, a psychic. -Cevriyi, a Turkish national history teacher at a private high school -Feride, mentally ill, possibly schizophrenic. -Zeliha, a tattooist -Asya, Zeliha's daughter, by an unknown father. Asya is the bastard. and Petite-Ma, mother of Gülsüm, su 'The Bastard of Istanbul' by Elif Shafak is primarily about three interconnected 21st-century families who are separated after the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the Turks in Turkey. The Kazanci family, in Istanbul: Gülsüm, the mother of the women: -Banu, a psychic. -Cevriyi, a Turkish national history teacher at a private high school -Feride, mentally ill, possibly schizophrenic. -Zeliha, a tattooist -Asya, Zeliha's daughter, by an unknown father. Asya is the bastard. and Petite-Ma, mother of Gülsüm, suffering from dementia No Kazanci males survive very long. The Kazanci family has only the above females living in the Istanbul house as the novel opens. There is a brother, Mustafa, who was the fourth child born before Zeliha, but he moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Mustafa Kazanci, a Muslim, married Rose, an American girl born in Kentucky. Rose and Mustafa have no children. Rose was previously married to an Armenian-American, Barsam Tchakhmakhchian, a Catholic. Rose and her first husband Barsam had a girl. Shushan is the matriarch and mother of Barsam Tchakhmakhchian, Rose's ex-husband. Barsam's sisters are Surpun (professor of humanities), Zarouhi, and Varsenig. There is uncle Dikran Stamboulian and cousin Kevork Karaoglanian. They live in San Francisco. This family are more-or-less walk-ins in the story, and are important only in establishing that Rose first married the Armenian character Barsam, and then later she married the Turk Mustafa after divorcing Barsam. First husband Barsam and Rose had a daughter, Armanoush (Amy). So, although Armanoush's father Barsam is Armenian, she lives also with her Turk stepfather, frequently traveling back and forth between San Francisco and Phoenix. The only thing Armanoush knows about Turkish culture is the discovery both her Armenian and Turk relatives eat the same food. She has also learned about the awful massacre of Turkish Armenians by Turks in 1915 from her Armenian-American relatives. Armanoush Tchakhmakhchian, twenty-one years old, has decided she needs to explore her Turkish roots. She knows both her American mother Rose in Phoenix and her father Barsam's family in San Francisco might not approve of her trip to Istanbul, so she lies to both of her families. She tells Rose she is visiting San Francisco, and she tells Barsam she is visiting Phoenix. The Istanbul family, the Kazanci's, welcome Armanoush. She is fascinated by the variety of choices her female relatives have to live within Turkey, especially the Kazanci household (frankly, I think the freedom of choice is determined by the relatives being of an all-female gender). She goes about with the bastard, Asya, who appears to be kind of a 'punk' intellectual rebel. In a subsequent conversation, Armanoush discovers Asya knows nothing about the attempted genocide of all Turkish Armenians by the Turks. Nineteen-year-old Asya is only slightly interested in the genocide story, and she does not entirely believe it. But her attitude about history is 'whatever', anyway. Who cares about history? How could history have anything to do with her life? There are several family secrets, though. Gentle reader, shocking discoveries will be revealed to us readers, if not to the families. Indeed, the genetics of Turks and Armenians might be interesting if someone parsed and compared the DNA of these neighboring cultures in real life. For the record, I believe this genocidal massacre occurred despite the denials of the Turkish government. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armen... Quoted from the author's acknowledgements: "Between the Turkish edition and the English edition of this novel in 2006,1 was put on trial for "denigrating Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The charges that were brought against me were due to the words that some of the Armenian characters spoke in the novel; I could have been given up to a three-year prison sentence, but the charges were eventually dropped. During this time, I have been fortunate enough to receive enormous support from so many people, friends, and strangers alike, of such different nationalities and religions. " I think the government of Turkey wants to whitewash away its history from living memory. I think this is a travesty of Justice. *ahem* Ok, I'm getting off the soapbox now. I enjoyed 'The Bastard of Istanbul'. Author Elif Shafak writes beautifully. Her book is full of poetic sentences and descriptions, as well as brief historical references to the Armenian Genocide. However, the book is as much about the importance of the connective tissues of healthy families as it is about diasporas and history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul intricately weaves together the lives of two families, the Turkish Kazanci family and the Armenian Tchakhmakhchian family. When Armanoush, the young daughter of Barsam Tchakhmakhchian and Rose from Kentucky, flies to Istanbul to visit her step-father’s family in Turkey to learn about her heritage, little does she know her visit will open up old wounds that have festered for generations. The “bastard” of the title is Asya Kazanci, the illegitimate daughter of Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul intricately weaves together the lives of two families, the Turkish Kazanci family and the Armenian Tchakhmakhchian family. When Armanoush, the young daughter of Barsam Tchakhmakhchian and Rose from Kentucky, flies to Istanbul to visit her step-father’s family in Turkey to learn about her heritage, little does she know her visit will open up old wounds that have festered for generations. The “bastard” of the title is Asya Kazanci, the illegitimate daughter of Zeliha, the youngest of the Kazanci women. Zeliha refuses to reveal the identity of her child’s father. So Asya is raised in a house full of women—her mother, two grandmothers, and three aunts, all of whom gloss over the fact that no one knows her father’s identity. Since she feels cut off from her roots, the nineteen-year-old Asya becomes a nihilist, denying the past has any bearing on her life. When Armanoush (“Amy”) shows up at the Kazanci residence in Istanbul, the step cousins become friends, discovering they have much in common. The novel’s end reveals they have more in common than any could have imagined. Shafak has written an entertaining tale of families whose fates are intertwined. Her characters ponder questions about the past and how much of the past should be allowed to impinge on their present day lives. Perhaps some secrets should stay buried while others should surface to facilitate healing and reconciliation. Shafak skillfully weaves snapshots of the 1915 Armenian deportations and genocide with the disparate threads of her character’s lives. A picture gradually emerges that links the past with the present, the Armenian family with the Turkish family, in unexpected ways. The novel’s strength lies in a number of areas. Shafak’s ability to create a sense of place is impressive. She immerses the reader in sights, sounds, smells; in the hustle and the bustle of a cosmopolitan Istanbul in all its beauty and contradictions. Food plays a prominent role both in America and Turkey. Armenian food, Turkish food, and American food are all described in vivid, sensory detail. Interestingly enough, Shafak uses the ingredients for the ashure dessert as her chapter headings, a dessert that plays a pivotal role at the end of the novel. Shafak’s portrayal of the bevy of women characters is equally impressive. The women envelope Asya in a cocoon of love that is, at times, comforting and, at other times, stifling. Each woman emerges as an authentic individual with a unique set of eccentricities and mannerisms. But there are occasions in which Shafak stretches plausibility. For example, she puts words in the mouths of the nineteen-year-old step cousins that are, perhaps, too sophisticated for their age. Asya, in particular, comes across as inauthentic when spouting her ideology. The seemingly disparate narrative threads are skillfully woven together to make a rich tapestry with surprising twists and turns, brimming with vivid detail, shifts in time and place, and a touch of magical realism with the sporadic presence of talking djinns. Shafak peppers her narrative with humor, irony, and, above all, with sympathy for characters who struggle with personal identity and with reconciliation for past injustices. Highly recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4: Two families - one Turkish, the other Armenian-American - are bound by the same horrific past. Written by Elif Shafak and dramatised by Hattie Naylor. One rainy afternoon in Istanbul, a nineteen-year-old, unmarried woman walks into a doctor's surgery. "I need to have an abortion," she announces. Twenty years later, Asya Kazanci lives with her extended family in Istanbul. All the Kanzanci men die early, victims of a mysterious family curse, so this is a household of women. Among th From BBC Radio 4: Two families - one Turkish, the other Armenian-American - are bound by the same horrific past. Written by Elif Shafak and dramatised by Hattie Naylor. One rainy afternoon in Istanbul, a nineteen-year-old, unmarried woman walks into a doctor's surgery. "I need to have an abortion," she announces. Twenty years later, Asya Kazanci lives with her extended family in Istanbul. All the Kanzanci men die early, victims of a mysterious family curse, so this is a household of women. Among them are Asya's beautiful, rebellious mother Zeliha, her clairvoyant aunt Banu and their eccentric sister Feride, as well as the ageing Petit Ma. They are ruled over by the iron will of matriarch Gulsum. Into the midst of this madhouse comes Asya's determined American cousin Armanoush, who unknowingly brings with her long-hidden family secrets inextricably linked to Turkey's turbulent past. Other voices by Murak Erkek, Catriona Stirling and the cast. Written by Elif Shafak Dramatised by Hattie Naylor Music by Gorkem Sen Sound design by James Morgan and Steve Bond Executive Producer: Sara Davies Produced and Directed by Nicolas Jackson An Afonica production for BBC Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09nrvtb

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sorin Hadârcă

    I hear some diminish The Bastard of Istanbul for feminism and textbook English. I take that’s rubbish. True, she speaks of women: Turkish and Armenian, in San Francisco and Istanbul. She also pays great attention to cuisine, clothing and character, which is bound to be scarce in… say Kurt Vonnegut (whom I admire). And I didn’t felt bad about the language – on the contrary – I think it has volume; it brings about images and reveals truths. I was very attracted to what the author calls – the Janiss I hear some diminish The Bastard of Istanbul for feminism and textbook English. I take that’s rubbish. True, she speaks of women: Turkish and Armenian, in San Francisco and Istanbul. She also pays great attention to cuisine, clothing and character, which is bound to be scarce in… say Kurt Vonnegut (whom I admire). And I didn’t felt bad about the language – on the contrary – I think it has volume; it brings about images and reveals truths. I was very attracted to what the author calls – the Janissary Paradox – the basic thought that the environment shapes the personality and the thoughts, the ideas, the beliefs you call your own are, in fact, borrowed from the society you live in. I was wondering if the book speaks better to the region (the Balkans, Caucasus and the other Ottoman neighborhoods) but then the message is quite universal: to step into the future you have to reconcile your past first. The salvation is deemed to come from tolerance. As in the Noah’s ark cohabited by lions and zebras; the ashure dessert made of the sweet and sour tastes, people can leave together by embracing the differences.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Manahil

    A quote from this book: ''Family stories intermingle in such ways that what happened generations ago can have an impact on seemingly irrelevant developments of the present day'' This explains the theme of this book. I really like this book. It was a unique story. Although it was a little drag at starting and you have to be a little bit patient about it but once you dive in it you won't regret it. I never give 5 stars to books unless its story line is unique, interesting or captivate me. This book A quote from this book: ''Family stories intermingle in such ways that what happened generations ago can have an impact on seemingly irrelevant developments of the present day'' This explains the theme of this book. I really like this book. It was a unique story. Although it was a little drag at starting and you have to be a little bit patient about it but once you dive in it you won't regret it. I never give 5 stars to books unless its story line is unique, interesting or captivate me. This book had everything and thus deserves 5 stars. It's another master piece by Elif Shafak. This book was incredible, I'm looking forward to read more of her stuff.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Yet another excellent novel largely about the Turkish Armenian genocide. I have read quite a few of these as well as some non-fiction on the subject, and it never ceases to amaze me that to this day, many Turks and the Turkish government refuse to acknowledge that it even happened. Anyway, this is a very good book, with very memorable characters, and a page turner of a story. Also has a surprise ending that I definitely did not see coming.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sura ✿

    "life is coincidence , though sometimes it takes a djinni to fathom that " Elif Shafak tells us a story of Injustice , forced-migration and savagery that happened and will happen in every community when majority persecutes the minority . This awful disease that humanity will never cure of ! Armnoush , a young Armenian-American girl travels to Turkey to meet Turkish family to discover the past of her family, then makes a friendship with Asya , a bastard Turkish girl , who's in fact the daughter of "life is coincidence , though sometimes it takes a djinni to fathom that " Elif Shafak tells us a story of Injustice , forced-migration and savagery that happened and will happen in every community when majority persecutes the minority . This awful disease that humanity will never cure of ! Armnoush , a young Armenian-American girl travels to Turkey to meet Turkish family to discover the past of her family, then makes a friendship with Asya , a bastard Turkish girl , who's in fact the daughter of Zeliha ,Armnoush cousin ! , though neither the two cousins nor the whole family know this important fact but a peaceful relationship gathers them. And yes , this cruel , miserable , rebel personality like Zeliha is the inevitable result of the arrogant and cruelty of Levent in ruling his family , what about entire nation ! Should we apologise for what others did ? what if they were our grand grand- fathers ! what if it was our brother ? what if it was .. us ! what if we were the victims and criminals ? Should we forgive ? Forget? Deny ? or just live with it ? I loved the two faces of family that Elif had showed; the ugly, controller , crazy face and the warm , merciful , loving face I liked this novel .

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