Tuesday 23 April 2013

Book review : Honour - Elif Shafak

BritMums have a new book club. (You can find out more about it by clicking through on the link.) Every month, the first 100 people to sign up will bag themselves a free copy of that month's book, then everyone reads it at the same time, compares notes and feedback and links up their reviews. I post loads of book reviews here on my blog and always love seeing what other people thought of the books I've read, so I was really pleased to get a copy of the first book up for discussion, Honour by Elif Shafak.

As I waited for my book to arrive, I did a bit of swotting up on the author, Elif Shafak. She is a young Turkish writer whose earlier controversial novel The Bastard of Istanbul got her into political hot water in her native homeland.

In Honour, Elif continues to write about Turkish-Kurdish characters but this time in London. Amongst other places, because the novel covers three generations and jumps about in narrative voice, space and time from the fifities to modern times and Istanbul to a small Kurdish village and London. The story is told principally by Esma, a young Turkish woman, who throws you straight into the turmoil of her family history with the opening line : "My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten". She then goes back in time to her grandmother's time and the births of her mother and aunt, twin girls named Pembe and Jamila, meaning Pink and Beautiful, in a village on the edge of the Euphrates. They may have come from the same place and time but destiny will lead them to two completely different places. The pivotal action in the book is the day Iskender, Esma's brother, murdered someone. Through her narrative, she tries to come to terms with this act of violence, examining the whys and wherefores, looking at what honour and love really means within a family.

The book is beautifully written with some parts uplifting and some parts hard to read. It is very thought-provoking, raising interesting questions about the damage caused by family secrets, siblings finding their place within a family and the different values of "outsiders" living in a seemingly alien culture. It will make you question cultural differences but also the different attitudes surrounding the sexes.

It's a book that will certainly stay with you long after you've turned the final page. While some of the episodes took me striaght back to my seventies childhood, other aspects of the book seemed incomprehensible to me because they are totally removed from my own life experiences.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to discuss it with the BritMums Book Club.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : Spirit of Lost Angels - Liza Perrat


  1. It took me back to the Seventies too. Agree, it is beautifully written and I'm SO glad you didn't give the ending away.

  2. What I enjoyed most was the roots of the family secrets slowly being exposed and untangled. I agree - a great read.


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