Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Bastard of Istanbul

Initially reviewed here on 10/06/2008

Author: Elif Shafak

My reading momentum had come down suddenly over the last few weeks. Am back again now with the review and more books lined up by the bedside :)After Pakistan and Afghanistan, this book which I picked up is about Turkey/Armenia. This was not on my original list but after coming across several good reviews, I was keen on reading it.

Here, Elif Shafak deals with the age old cultural dissonance that exists between the Turks and Armenians, through a complex story of two families. She indicates how even a 50-60years old history can have a strong impact on the present lives of people. In Istanbul (as well as in parts of U.S.A), the Turks and Armenians still co-exist with mutual uneasiness and hatred; with the act of genocide (during the Ottoman empire) still fresh in the memories of the Armenians whereas the Turks feel no such continuity with their ancestors or the past.Asya, labelled a 'bastard' since her birth, born when her mother was just 19yrs old, in a household full of women in Istanbul, grows up as a rebellious young Turkish woman, with the identity of her father shrouded till the end. Her only uncle who has immirated to America has an Armenian-American step-daugther called Armanoush (Amy), who later comes to Istanbul to stay in Asya's house, in search of her 'Armenian past'. Though the relationship between these 2 girls is strained, they soon become friends, intrigued by each other's culture. And during this quest, a lot of secrets tracing back to 1915 are discovered which really make the story gripping. There's a lot to learn about the Turkish-Armenian struggle history and the genocide especially, through the story of these 2 familes.I took a longer time than expected to finish this book coz I felt it became very slow in the middle.
Also, the author's writing style was quite different. There were different un-related parts of the story which were told together and I couldn't make much sense of it at that point and would lose track and end up being confused. But towards the final few chapters I could see it all come together! I really loved the book for this reason. Every small detail that was mentioned till then, just fell into place and the ending just left me awestruck!!! I didn't want to write the review as soon I completed the book, wanted that feeling to sink in and see if I really did enjoy it. Even now when I think about it, though it bored me a bit in the middle, I still love it for the complexities depicted in a very nice way!
Elif Shafak was prosecuted and acquitted in Turkey for insulting Turkishness by referring to the "millions" of Armenians "massacred" by "Turkish butchers" who "then contentedly denied it all." But finally the case was dismissed and she was back home and not in jail...

1 comment:

bethany said...

I really want to read this one!!!