A few years ago, I went on a spree reading Khaled Hosseini and the likes – reading about middle east and the Muslim world. However, most of these books were depressing and I refuse to believe everything in a community can be narrowed down to that. So, it was with much apprehension that I picked up Elif Shafak’s novel ‘Honour’.
The story of Honour (or ‘Iskender’ as it first published as) revolves around a family who has been marred by the act of one Honour Killing. Generations before and after the act have been affected and twisted to come to that end. It speaks of the gender divide as seen in the old and modern Turkish families – whether they are in their homeland or have moved to other unwelcoming soils. Esma’s story about her mother’s death at the hands of her brother makes up most of the book. But in between the story lies parts of family history, anecdotes about Turkish culture and tradition, and a beautifully expressed feeling from women caught in the traditional ropes. However, while some customs are questioned, the novel also shows the reverence with ancient mystic and magical thoughts were regarded.
The story is alluring, yes. But what makes the novel truly un-put-downable is Shafak’s writing style. It is as if, there is poetry in each of her lines. Sample this:
“That was when she winced, as if she had tripped over an unseen obstacle. She didn’t want to learn this man’s sad story. She didn’t want to learn anyone’s sad story. All she wanted to do was make up her own stories, taking comfort in the knowledge that they were not, and never would be, real.”
“To her the future was a land of promises. She had not been there yet, but she trusted it to be bright and beautiful. It was a place of infinite potential, a mosaic of shifting tiles, now in a seamless order, now in mild disarray for ever re-creating itself.
To him the past was a shrine. Reliable, solid, unchanging and above all, enduring. It provided insight to the beginning of everything; it gave him a sense of centre, coherence and continuity. He visited it devotedly and repeatedly, less out of need than out of a sense of duty – as if submitting to a higher will.”
It is no wonder then that Shafak is one of the most widely read female authors of Turkey. Her fiercely independent thought combined with her strong hold on the English language makes for delightful reads. I already am in the possession of Istanbul – another novel by the word magician. But have also looked for Forty Rules of Love.
For those who want to know a bit more about the author, you can listen to her TED Talks on Youtube. But for the bookworms, Elif Shafak’s books are something you wouldn’t want to miss.
Paperback: Pages 352
Price in India: Rs 303