The Bastard of Istanbul

( 26 )

Overview

From one of Turkey's most acclaimed and outspoken writers comes 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 ...

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The Bastard of Istanbul

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Overview

From one of Turkey's most acclaimed and outspoken writers comes 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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Editorial Reviews

Barry Unsworth
… there is no reconciliation without justice. Elif Shafak's novel brings the possibility of it a step closer, and we are all in her debt for this.
— The Washington Post
USA Today
Zesty, imaginative . . . A Turkish version of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club.
Elle
Shafak's writing is seductive. . . . The Bastard of Istanbul portrays family as more than merely a function of genetics and fate, folding together history and fiction, the personal and the political into a thing of beauty.
New York Newsday
[This] saucy, witty, dramatic, and affecting tale in the spirit of novels by Amy Tan, Julia Alvarez, and Bharati Mukherjee should prove irresistible to readers. . . . A grandly emphatic and spellbinding story.
Chicago Tribune
Beautifully imagined . . . this wonderful new novel carried me away. And reality was different when I returned.
Donna Seaman
Shafak's second novel, a saucy, witty, dramatic and affecting tale in the spirit of novels by Amy Tan, Julia Alvarez, and Bharati Mukherjee, should prove irresistible to readers...Shafak is careful to balance the gravity of her truth-telling mission with humor, until the shocking revelations and resolutions of the concluding chapters. Her charming, smart, and profoundly involving spinning top of a novel dramatizes the inescapability of guilt and punishment, and the inextricable entwinement of Armenians and Turks, East and West, past and present, the personal and the political. By aligning the 'compulsory amnesia' surrounding the crimes in one family with Turkey's refusal to confront past crimes against humanity, Shafak makes the case for truth, reconciliation and remembrance. She also tells a grandly emphatic and spellbinding story.
New York Newsday
Alan Cheuse
Beautifully imagined...it's as much family history as national history that drives this vital and entertaining novel. And it's the powerful and idiosyncratic characters who drive the family history. An, as you hear in your mind's ear, it's Shafak's vibrant language that drives the characters...This wonderful new novel carried me away. And reality was different when I returned.
The Chicago Tribune
Saul Austerlitz
The purposeful ignorance of Shafak's Turks, born out of a willing turning away from past familial horrors, becomes a symbol for the collective Turkish turning away from the horrors of the Armenian genocide. Shafak is incapable of bringing harmony to such unsettled matters, even in the pages of a fiction narrative. All she can do, and does, is shine a light on the past, and keep it shining so that everyone - Turkish, Armenian, and otherwise - must look.
San Francisco Chronicle
Ben Ehrenreich
Worlds collide and find themselves already interwoven...there's more going on than interfamilial melodrama, and Shafak's ambitions do not stop with an airing of Turkey's century-old dirty laundry...In the end, Shafak resists a tidy wrap-up. She leaves most of her characters in the lurch, abandoning them midcrisis, their dilemmas only deepened with a dose of ambiguity. But how else could she leave them? The point here - and of the ugly fuss that has greeted the book's publication - is that the past is never finished, never neat, and never ours.
The Los Angeles Times
Jennifer Gerson
Shafak's writing is seductive; each chapter of her novel is named for a food, and the warmth of the Turkish kitchen lies at the center of its wide-ranging plot. The Bastard of Istanbul portrays family as more than merely a function of genetics and fate, folding together history and fiction, the personal and the political into a thing of beauty.
Elle Magazine
Amberin Zaman
A deftly spun tale of two families - one Armenian American and the other Turkish - who are burdened by dark secrets and historical tragedies rooted in a common Istanbul past.
The Economist
Sherrie Flick
Through her characters Shafak examines how the stories we love and the stories we tell become who we are. Her writing is beautiful and meaningful and will astound you as you find the many ways to claim the story as, also, your own...This is an important book about forgetting, about retelling stories, about denial, about not knowing your past, about knowing your past, and about choosing (again and again) to start over.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Patricia Corrigan
A fast paced story of love, loss, and coincidence. Shafak writes powerfully of war (cultural and familial), of peace and the meaning of moral fortitude. She possesses a steady hand when it comes to creating strong female characters, and her vivid descriptions of the charms of Istanbul serve to lure the traveler...Shafak's characters linger in the mind days after finishing the book.
St. Louis Post Dispatch
Publishers Weekly
In her second novel written in English (The Saint of Incipient Insanities was the first), Turkish novelist Shafak tackles Turkish national identity and the Armenian "question" in her signature style. In a novel that overflows with a kitchen sink's worth of zany characters, women are front and center: Asya Kazanci, an angst-ridden 19-year-old Istanbulite is the bastard of the title; her beautiful, rebellious mother, Zeliha (who intended to have an abortion), has raised Asya among three generations of complicated and colorful female relations (including religious clairvoyant Auntie Banu and bar-brawl widow, Auntie Cevriye). The Kazanci men either die young or take a permanent hike like Mustafa, Zeliha's beloved brother who immigrated to America years ago. Mustafa's Armenian-American stepdaughter, Armanoush, who grew up on her family's stories of the 1915 genocide, shows up in Istanbul looking for her roots and for vindication from her new Turkish family. The Kazanci women lament Armanoush's family's suffering, but have no sense of Turkish responsibility for it; Asya's boho cohorts insist there was no genocide at all. As the debate escalates, Mustafa arrives in Istanbul, and a long-hidden secret connecting the histories of the two families is revealed. Shafak was charged with "public denigration of Turkishness" when the novel was published in Turkey earlier this year (the charges were later dropped). She incorporates a political taboo into an entertaining and insightful ensemble novel, one that posits the universality of family, culture and coincidence. (Jan. 22) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Turkish author Shafak's second English-language novel (after The Saint of Incipient Insanities) asks a profound question: Is it possible for either nations or individuals to live solely in the present, ignoring everything that came before? Set in Istanbul, the book's action takes place mostly in a home shared by four generations of women: middle-aged sisters Banu, Feride, Gevriye, and Zehila Kazanci and their mother, grandmother, and teenaged daughter/niece, Asya. The household's live-and-let-live credo-no one, for example, has ever asked who fathered the "bastard" Asya-comes apart when Amanoush, the Armenian-American stepdaughter of the sisters' estranged brother, comes for a visit. The 1915 Turkish massacre and deportation of Armenians and the country's failure to confront its murderous past butts up against secrets that have fractured the Kazanci family for generations. Despite heavy themes, Shafak is often funny, and her weaving of recipes and folk tales into the text makes it both enlightening and entertaining. While this alone would recommend the novel, that Shafak was recently acquitted of the charge of "denigrating Turkishness" because of her frank look at Turkish-Armenian antipathy makes it essential reading. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/06.]-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An astonishingly rich and lively story of an Istanbul family whose mixed up heritage mirrors the complexity of Turkish society. Shafak (The Gaze, 2006), whom the Turkish government has put on trial for "denigrating Turkishness," writes here about the 1915 massacre of Armenians. The four Kazanci sisters live together with their mother and paternal grandmother in Istanbul, their bother Mustafa having been sent to Arizona as a young man to avoid the Kazanci curse: The men of the family tend to die by age 41. When the youngest sister, rebellious Zeliha, has a daughter out of wedlock, she refuses to name the father. Calling Zeliha auntie although she knows their relationship, Aysa grows up in this household of women. Zeliha runs a tattoo parlor; her sisters include a devout Muslim seer, a nationalistic history teacher and a batty feminist. To escape her doting aunts and grandmothers, Aysa hangs out with coffeehouse intellectuals, including a cartoonist indicted by the government for cartoons mocking the prime minister. Defensive about her lack of a father, Aysa takes an existential view of life that denies the importance of the past. Meanwhile in America, Armanoush is born to an Armenian father and American mother. After her parents divorce, Armanoush's mother marries Mustafa, who barely acknowledges his Turkish roots. Armanoush spends large chunks of her childhood with her father's loving Armenian family, which clings to history and long simmering bitterness against the Turks. Increasingly drawn to her Armenian roots, Armanoush travels to Istanbul (without telling her parents) to learn more of her family history. She stays with the Kazancis, who are astounded when she tells them what Turksdid to Armenians. As Asya and Armanoush become friends, myths-ethnic, familial and personal-explode. Despite a misstep into melodrama concerning Mustafa, Shafak handles her large cast of characters and plotting with finesse. A hugely ambitious exploration of complex historical realities handled with an enchantingly light touch.
From the Publisher
"Laural Merlington has the skills to bring this complex, intriguing story to life." —-AudioFile
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400153978
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2007
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Elif Shafak
Laural Merlington has recorded well over one hundred audiobooks, including works by Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, and is the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. An Audie Award nominee, she has also directed over one hundred audiobooks.
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Nineteen-year-old Asya, like many teenagers, is full of rage. Feeling like an outsider in a family of suffocating women, she rebels against everything she thinks her family and culture expect from her. Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, Asya is the youngest female of the Kazanci family: There’s Petite-Ma, the delicate great-grandmother slowly losing her memories to Alzheimer’s; Grandma Gülsüm, a harsh woman who must bitterly corral an unruly bunch of daughters after her only son, Mustafa, flees to America; Auntie Banu, who chooses to live with her sisters rather than her own husband and channels her piety into a career as a soothsayer; Auntie Feride, who has spent her life careening from one mental illness to the next; Auntie Cevriye, a tightly wound, widowed high school history teacher; and Auntie Zeliha, the youngest, who runs a tattoo parlor and refuses to play by anyone’s rules. Zeliha also happens to be Asya’s mother.

Asya, an illegitimate child, is ignorant of her father’s identity and torn between wanting desperately to know the truth of her past and launching herself toward a future that is built independently of her unknown roots. Her conflicted feelings about the past take on more immediacy when her Uncle Mustafa’s stepdaughter, Armanoush, suddenly comes to visit. An Armenian American and a child of the Armenian diaspora who is struggling with the oppressive history of her ancestors, Armanoush hopes that by visiting the country where her family faced such sorrow and loss in the 1915 deportations and massacres, she can finally pin down her own identity. In Istanbul—a city stuck between East and West, past and future, simultaneously an inviting amalgam of stone, color, and sound and an impenetrable, deceptive façade—the two girls set in motion a series of events that uncover long-buried secrets that will link the two girls and their families together in ways no one could expect.

Shafak has created an intricately woven tale about the very different but equally difficult struggles of living with the past and trying to survive without one. Full of bold, unforgettable characters, The Bastard of Istanbul reveals that even the worst events are important ingredients in the recipes that make each of us who we are.

ABOUT ELIF SHAFAK

Elif Shafak is one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken novelists. She was born in 1971 and is the author of six novels, most recently The Saint of Incipient Insanities, The Gaze and The Flea Palace, and one work of non-fiction. She teaches at the University of Arizona and divides her time between the US and Istanbul.

A CONVERSATION WITH ELIF SHAFAK

Q. Where were you born, and when and how did you come to live in America?

A. I was born in France, Strasbourg, in 1971. All throughout my childhood and youth I have lived in different cities and countries, including Madrid, Spain; Amman, Jordan; and Cologne, Germany. Then in my thirties I came to the United States, first to Boston, then Michigan and Arizona. I am not an immigrant. I guess all my life I have been a nomad, a commuter.

Q. You divide your time between Istanbul, Turkey, and Tucson, Arizona. What do you think is the most striking contrast between the two cities? What do you think they have most in common?

A. Right now I divide my time between these two cities and the contrast couldn’t be deeper. Tucson when compared to Istanbul is quiet, sterile, and ordered. But it is the desert that fascinated me as I learned to live with her around. The desert and Tucson are calm whereas Istanbul is anything but. She is a restless city of more than 10 million. When the pace of the latter is tiring I feel a need to escape to the former. But when the peace and quiet of the former suffocates, I feel a need to come back to Istanbul. I guess I need both.

Q. Your novel gives readers insight into both the Turkish and Armenian cultures and some of their respective problems. What personal experiences led you to portray these two peoples in the way that you have?

A. I am the child of a Turkish diplomat. I was raised by a single mother, and she became a diplomat around the time I was ten or eleven. And when we were in Madrid, Spain, Armenian terrorists were killing Turkish diplomats. My first acquaintance with Armenian identity is very negative. There is no way terrorism can be legitimized or approved. But that said, in time as I kept reading, thinking, and collecting stories of real people, as a writer and intellectual my pursuits brought me to a point where I had to face the tragic events of 1915 and rethink the whole past.

Q. The Kazanci and Tchakhmakhchian families really come to life in this novel. Which of these characters, and their relationships with each other, were inspired by your own family?

A. I grew up without seeing my father and all my life he has been absent. In that sense there are similarities. The title that I wanted to give the novel at the beginning was “Baba and the Bastard”—baba meaning father in Turkish. I wanted to deal with the absence of the father. Also, as a child I was surrounded by women: grandmother, aunts, neighbors . . . ordinary and sometimes ignorant but definitely strong willed and beautiful souls they were. All of those have been reflected in the book. And the Tchakhmakhchian family has been inspired by my Armenian friends in America and Turkey. While I was writing this novel I had a chance to talk to many Armenian women. They opened the doors of their homes to me and I am grateful to them for sharing their stories with me.

Q. Though American pop culture references are sprinkled throughout the novel, you chose Johnny Cash as Asya’s sole musical interest. Why?

A. First of all because I love Johnny Cash myself. Music has always been a very central ingredient in my fiction, not only in terms of pop culture or alternative music genres (which I am very interested in), but also in the sense that when I write fiction it is to me a matter of rhythm, of music. And in all my novels music plays an important role. I think every story brings its own music along, and then, when the reader starts to read the book, she too hears it.

Q. 6. Your female characters appear in many different lights in the novel: as Muslims, members of a secular state, foreign exiles, social outcasts, Americans brought into foreign families, sisters, daughters, wives, lovers, and friends. What statement do you feel The Bastard of Istanbul makes about women’s roles both past and present?

A. This is a book in which women play the central role, both Armenian and Turkish women.

I believe women’s relation to the past is quite different than men’s. My country is a country of collective amnesia. Yet, if we still have some memory of the past, we owe it to women. Women pass their heritage from one generation to another, through recipes, songs, lullabies, and stories. These are all ordinary but precious gems of daily life. While I was writing this novel I did not deal with big macro-political questions. Just the opposite: I probed the simple and basic ingredients in the everyday life of Armenian and Turkish women. And they have so much in common.

Q. You write in both Turkish and English. What prompted you to write The Bastard of Istanbul in English? How does the process differ for you when writing in each language? Do you find that you are writing for different audiences or just using different vocabularies?

A. Every language has its own labyrinth, its own rhythm. As a writer it fascinates me to discover that. It is a big challenge, not only a linguistic challenge, but also an existential one. In another language you have to rediscover your literary voice, start from scratch again. But despite the difficulties involved I enjoy commuting between languages because I am fascinated with language in the most abstract sense. Just like a Jewish mystic or a Hurufi, an Islamic mystic in love with letters, I do not see language as an instrument and myself outside or above it. Rather, I see language as a new continent and want to explore its meadows, precipices, mountains, and landscape. A new language gives you a new zone of existence. You become a different person as you switch from one language to another.

I know many Turkish women who were raised bilingual cannot possibly utter any bad words in Turkish, because it is not proper for women to use that kind of language in this culture. But when I hear them speak English, I notice they do swear freely, without reservations, as if it is OK to swear in English but not in Turkish. I observe these linguistic journeys.

Q. How have the Turkish and American literary worlds each received your work? What aspects of being a Turkish author and an American author do you most enjoy? Which aspects do you find most difficult?

A. There are differences. I am a well-known writer in Turkey. I was somebody in Turkey when I came to the United States four years ago. Then in a day I became a nobody. If you are a painter you can take your paintings with you when you move from one country to another. You can take your music with you if you are a musician, or your documentaries if you are a documentary maker. But when you are a novelist and you have almost nothing translated into English yet (at that point I didn’t), you literally become a nobody in a day. And I liked that. I was so famous in Turkey, a country in which the novelists are always in the public eye, it both frightened and fascinated me to become nobody and start from there again, this time writing in English.

The two countries are so different. In Turkey the literary world is deeply politicized. A novelist is a public figure. It is a writer-oriented framework. We concentrate on the persona of the writer but not so much on her writing. In the United States it is more writing oriented and I like that.

Q. Your love for Istanbul shines through the pages of this novel. You do not spend as much time depicting your other home, Tucson. What other American cities have you spent time in? Do any of them come to life for you the way Istanbul does?

A. While giving readings and talks at different universities or bookstores, I had the chance to travel to many places in the United States. I lived a year in Boston, then in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then moved down south after an offer from the University of Arizona. I love traveling in the United States and seeing the different layers in this country, both in terms of landscape and people. I am fascinated with New York, and in many ways I do see similarities between New York and Istanbul. I think New York is closer to Istanbul than to Arizona or the Midwest.

Q. Your character Baron Baghdassarian delivers an indictment: “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). What fresh perspectives on the past and present do you hope Armenian and Turkish readers will find among the pages of this novel? What would you most like American readers to understand about these communities?

A. I think we Turks need to overcome our amnesia and build a sense of continuity in time. Being so future oriented has made us very dynamic, and yet at the same time we could not mature because you cannot mature, either as a society or individual, without coming to grips with your past. That said, I think Armenians in the diaspora can be too past oriented and memory driven. When I meet a young Armenian, like eighteen or nineteen years old, I meet someone with a very old memory, the memory of her grandmother. But being too past-oriented can blur someone’s vision. Eventually, I wish we Turks could remember, and Armenians could forget.

Q. What books and writers have been particularly influential in your life?

A. So many . . . I have always had a very eclectic reading list. Russian literature, particularly Dostoyevsky, gloomy voices in European literature, such as Michel Tournier, Henry Mulisch, and of course Virginia Woolf. And then multiple voices in American literature, such as Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Auster, Toni Morrison . . . To this endless list I must add my interest in Sufism. I also read extensively on Jewish and Islamic mysticism. As a political scientist, books on political philosophy too are an inspiration for me, particularly Spinoza and Deleuze.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. Right now I am working on my baby, as I just had a daughter. At the same time I am working on a script on honor killings. I want to use the most popular agency, that is to say, the TV, to question and confront sexism and honor killings.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • On page 34, to whom, and for what, is Zeliha apologizing?
     
  • The women of this novel create many rules for themselves. Identify and list them, discussing the circumstances that each reflects.
     
  • How do the various characters in the novel express their femininity or womanhood? How do both the religious conservatism and the secularity of Istanbul influence them?
     
  • Asya wants so much to be different from her mother. Yet she is like her in so many ways. Compare and contrast Zeliha and Asya.
     
  • On page 135, Auntie Cevriye says, “The problem with us Turks is that we are constantly being misinterpreted and misunderstood.” Share your idea of what it must be like to live in Turkey. Has this book changed or reinforced your opinion?
     
  • Born on different continents and raised in different ethnic traditions, what do Asya and Armanoush have in common? How are they different?
     
  • Asya and Armanoush both find themselves in families that encourage conformity and dislike “standing out,” despite the fact that both families love their black sheep regardless. Explain the reasons each family feels this way and cite examples of how each acts out its preference.
     
  • Everywhere in this story are symbols of contradiction—or, more specifically, the concept of being many different things at once, existing in a state between belonging and separateness. Find some examples of this theme throughout the novel.
     
  • On pages 179–180, Asya and Armanoush discuss their differing opinions on the role of remembrance and the past. With whom do you most agree and why?
     
  • Zeliha refuses to tattoo her lover, Aram, with his chosen design: an upside down tree with its roots in the air. What does it mean to be displaced but not placeless? How does this concept apply to the characters of the novel?
     
  • Istanbul is personified in many different ways throughout the novel. It also serves as a symbol with many layers of meaning. While sharing drinks and dinner with Aram, Zeliha, and Asya, what is it that Armanoush comes to understand about Istanbul and its hold over Armenians and Turks alike? What significance does this portrayal of the city have for the novel and its characters?
     
  • With the weight of the truth on her shoulders, Auntie Banu wonders if it’s better for human beings to endlessly pine to discover their history or to know as little of the past as possible and forget what small amount is remembered. What do you think?
     
  • What is the significance of naming each chapter after an ingredient of the dessert ashure?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2008

    The best book ive read so far this year

    I picked this book up randomly at B&N, a bit curious given the title. Istanbul has always been on the list of places I want to travel to. Reading this book, I felt like I was there. The family bond that you read is so touching. The passion these people are about their ancestors and culture is amazing. All the characters in this book are so realistic. I have already recommended this book to several people. This book hit my itch to read a book culturally rich. I have put Istanbul on the top of my list and will travel there as soon as its possible. I will definitely read another book from this author!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    I always wanted to travel to Istanbul, and the descriptions of the sisters living in that city are fascinating. The story behind Armanoush's Armenian family is sad, yet hopeful. The plot moved quickly, and the ending is quite a surprise. It's got a little bit of romance, mystery, suspense and historical significance. What a great read this was. I highly, highly recommend this to all. I'm surprised it's not on the bestseller list. Oh, and kudos for the author who had the guts to write this as a Turkish woman about the Armenian genocide. I'm glad she didn't end up in jail. So, folks, take advantage of your freedom to read 'anything' and buy this book, or check it out of the library.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    A good read

    I enjoyed this book very much. It was my first read of Ms Shafaks' work, having read recommendations from Paul Theroux in his lastest book. I am happy to say I enjoyed this one far more than I did one by her national colleague, Orhan Pamuk. If you're sampling Turkish writers, this is a good place to start. A bit of a chick flick, but the writing carries you along since it is a great story, thoughtfully told.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beware: The Story is Not True to Its Billing

    It is so hard to rate this book because I felt differently about different parts of the book:

    Beginning (Ch 1-5) 2 Stars
    Middle (Ch 6 - 14) 4 Stars
    End (Ch 14-18) 1 Star

    The Bastard of Istanbul is billed as a story of two families, one Armenian and one Turk, tied together by a secret related to the 1915 Armeian deportation and massacre. This portion of the story is very good. Unfortunately, this is a minor part of the story wtih the crux being disgusting and so unrelated to promising premise that you have to wonder if Shafak is simply going for shock value. The story is really about secrets and the destruction of those lies needed to keep that secret .

    The Kazanci family from Istanbul is a family with a curse. The men in the family die young. In current day Istanbul four generations of women live together with the exception of one brother who was sent to America in an attempt to protect him from the curse. Each of these women differ vastly in personality. Petit Ma is the gentle matriarch who now suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. Mother Gulsum is akin to Ivan the Terrible. Oldest sister Banu the clairvoyant, Sister Cevriye high school history teacher, Sister Feride is dealing with mental illness resulting in paranoia, rebel Zeliha, and the daughter she bore out of wedlock, Asya co-exist despite their vast differences.

    Brother Mustafa marries an American girl named Rose. Rose is a divorced mother of one daughter, Amy (Armanoush). Armanoush's father's family is Armenian and never approved of the American marriage with an Odar. The Armenian famiy are surivivors of the 1915 genocide. Originally Rose dates Mustafa seeking revenge on her ex Armenian in-laws but gradually a sincere love is formed. Armanoush, struggling with her conflicting cultural pasts, secretly travels to Istanbul to stay with her step-father's family to learn more of her Armenian heritage. The visit brings to light a litany of secrets impacting both families.

    Possible Spoiler:

    Late in the book we learn that Asya is not the result of her mother's rebelious streak but rather a very oddly constructed rape. The choice for the perpetrator is disgusting and doesn't add anything to the story. It is very disappointing that Shafak took the story in that direction and really ruined the book for me personally.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    .

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  • Posted September 3, 2011

    Not good...

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2011

    Worth more than 5 *s!

    I read this book in less than a week. So far it's the best Elif Shafak's book I have read. I like the way she blends fiction, history and culture all together. It gave me some insight about my bf's cultural background.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2009

    Liked It!

    Kind of slow but good ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2011

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    Posted December 7, 2008

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    Posted February 9, 2014

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    Posted April 11, 2014

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    Posted May 29, 2009

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    Posted March 18, 2010

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    Posted May 28, 2009

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    Posted July 19, 2010

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    Posted May 26, 2011

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    Posted February 14, 2009

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