I just finished The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak, this evening, and I am still caught up in it. It is one of those books that puts me in awe of the author – seemingly effortless writing conveying emotions and scenes so well that I don’t feel as if I am reading, I simply feel that I am there, with the characters, in the story. With lyrical, beautiful writing, Shafak weaves an intense, heartfelt tale about remembering and forgetting, about the past and the present, about identity, love, and pain. The story centers on two young women, one Turkish and one Armenian-American, who meet in the present and have intertwined pasts. The characters are eclectic and unique and original; most importantly, they feel real. The style took me a little while to get used to; it is what one might call tangential: the narrative will be describing a scene in the present and then go off on a tangent to tell some part of the character’s past before returning to the present. After I became accustomed to it, the story quickly engrossed me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is intense, but it is well worth it. Although this review is short, I felt that the book was highly deserving of its own post. I will leave you with a few quotes.
This place was out of time and space. Istanbul was in a constant hurry and yet at Cafe Kundera only lethargy prevailed. People outside the cafe stuck to one another to disguise their loneliness, pretending to be far more intimate than they really were, whereas in here it was the opposite, everyone pretending to be far more detached than they really were. This spot was the negation of the whole city.
It is almost dawn, a short step away from that uncanny threshold between nighttime and daylight. It is the only time in which it is still possible to find solace in dreams and yet too late to build them anew.
Time is not a scarce commodity in suburbia. People use it as lavishly and freely as hot water.
And from near the very beginning of the book:
Rain is an agony here. In other parts of the world, a downpour will in all likelihood come as a boon for nearly everyone and everything – good for the crops, good for the fauna and the flora, and with an extra splash of romanticism, good for lovers. Not so in Istanbul though. Rain, for us, isn’t necessarily about getting wet. It’s not about getting dirty even. If anything, it’s about getting angry. It’s mud and chaos and rage, as if we didn’t have enough of each already. And struggle. It’s always about struggle. Like kittens thrown into a bucketful of water, all ten million of us put up a futile fight against the drops. It can’t be said that we are completely alone in this scuffle, for the streets too are in on it, with their antediluvian names stenciled on tin placards, and the tombstones of so many saints scattered in all directions, the piles of garbage that wait on almost every corner, the hideously huge construction pits soon to be turned into glitzy, modern buildings, and the seagulls….it angers us all when the sky opens and spits on our heads.