At its center is the "bastard" of the title, Asya, a 19-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. They include 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.
©2007 Elif Shafak; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"Beautifully imagined....This wonderful new novel carried me away." (The Chicago Tribune)
"A saucy, witty, dramatic, and affecting tale in the spirit of novels by Amy Tan, Julia Alvarez, and Bharati Mukherjee." (New York Newsday)
Having been to Istanbul recently, this book brought back a lot of memories. The place is alive, in real life as in the book. The story for me was a little slow at first, the characters didn't really come to life until the second half of the book- but when they did, it was wonderful.
I was pleasantly surprised at the warmth and humor in this novel. The author's gift for language is extraordinary, and she manages to convey the lives of Turkish women of multiple generations in a manner that conveys all of their humanity, wit and resourcefulness. The characters remain very true to themselves throughout the book. While there isn't a sneaky "surprise" ending, this isn't meant to be a whodunit. There is a mystery to be resolved, and the story wraps up nicely. The gentle insertion of the recent histories of the Turkish and Armenian people, which plays so heavily in the lives of those people in every day life, is a boon to the average American reader.
This was a very well written book with a complex plot, characters, and a surprise message. I would highly recommend it.
This book passed the time nicely enough during my 2 hour daily commute, but it wasn't exactly riveting. The characters were fleshed out nicely and the author captured the oddities that families endure, and learn to endear, but the end was easy enough to see coming.
When sitting together eating, the family scene is so real to me
I'm not good at processing orally, but this reader's voice is musicale
a well thought of story that is full of culture and history. As for the narrator (with all due respect), she got me so irritated listening to her trying to imitate foreign accents, imitate male voices, pronouncing Turkish and Armenians names, ethnic food...etc. For some reason the narrator stopped using her fake and irritating accent for people in Istanbul. That was a great relief for my ears but made me wonder why she chose to talk in a heavy accent reading speeches by Armenian Americans in the US. I am not sure how many more "Anti Banu" phrase i could handle pronouncing the Banu in a such an irritating way!!!
Throughout this book I could not get away from the feeling that the author's sole objective was to write about the history of the Armenian genocide in Turkey. The story was a vehicle for her history lesson and she manipulated it to enable the characters to give political speeches. The narrative stops dead with each one of these. She deals well, however, with the longing and search for identity of people from mixed cultures and the suffocating intimacy of these Middle Eastern families. The most interesting part for me was the depiction of how family experiences and retold history can shape younger generations' attitudes and beliefs in the same way that nations can manipulate access to information to do the same thing. The attachment to victimhood as part of a national, cultural identity, even when no longer justified, was an interesting aspect. I found many of the characters implausable, unappealing, and/or irritating. The second half of the book was far more engaging than the beginning as she got more focused on the narrative.
Sad, engaging and inspiring, The Bastard of Istanbul hooked me quickly. The story is of strong women and touches apon the Armenian deportation from Turkey. If you are going to visit Turkey, read a couple of El if Shafak's novels as a wonderful introduction to the rich history and culture of this country. Perhaps you will fall in love with it, as I have.
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