The Bastard of Istanbul

The Bastard of Istanbul

3.5 26
by Elif Shafak, Laural Merlington
     
 

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From one of Turkey's most acclaimed and outspoken writers comes a novel about the tangled histories of two families.See more details below

Overview

From one of Turkey's most acclaimed and outspoken writers comes a novel about the tangled histories of two families.

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:
02/01/2007
Edition description:
MP3 - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Zesty, imaginative . . . A Turkish version of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club."
-USA Today

"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."
-Elle

"[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."
-New York Newsday (cover)

"Beautifully imagined . . . this wonderful new novel carried me away. And reality was different when I returned."
-Chicago Tribune

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