I had never heard of this book or the author. I was at a book fair in Sharjah recently and chanced upon this book. The title of the book intrigued me and after reading the synopsis, I decided to buy it. Well, it was a good decision as I loved the book. It is one of those unputdownable kind of novels, that keeps you hooked from the start to the end.
The Bastard of Istanbul is Turkish novelist Elif Shafak’s second novel in English. This novel of Elif Shafak almost put her in prison for ‘insulting Turkishness’ by the Turkish government. Yes, the novel does deal with the Armenian genocide.
The novel is set in United States and Istanbul, Turkey. It is filled with unconventional women characters like Asya Kazanci, the 19 year old feisty Istanbul girl and the bastard of the novel’s title, then there is Zeliha her beautiful and rebellious mother, her religious clairvoyant aunt Banu, two other aunts, grandmother and great grandmother. And also Armanoush, Asya’s Armenian American cousin.
The novel starts with unmarried Zeliha going to a hospital for abortion. What happens that rainy afternoon, changes her life and the lives of everyone around her. Twenty years later, Asya Kazanci lives with her extended family consisting of only women in Istanbul. All the Kazanci men die in their forties due to a mysterious family curse. Amidst this scenario, Armanoush her Armenian American cousin comes to stay and that’s when long hidden family secrets and Turkey’s disturbing past begins to emerge.
It is a beautiful and spirited novel with colorful and wonderful characters. Loved reading it and I am definitely going to read Elif Shafak’s other books too.
Some of the quotes that I liked from this novel:
“The past lives within the present, and our ancestors breathe through our children.”
“Either grant me the bliss of the ignorant or give me the strength to bear the knowledge.”
“How terrible it was to still be mentally and emotionally attached to someone from whom you have been physically separated.”
“What is knowledge good for if you cannot change anything? It is venom that handicaps you forever.”
“There was something in the color white that resembled silence. Both were emptied of life.”