Honour by Elif Shafak


Honour by Elif Shafak

Turkish fiction

source Library copy

Elif Shafak is one of the most prolific writers of Turkish origins around today ,she writes in both Turkish and English .Raised by her single mother as her parents seperated when she was just one year old she grew up in various place round Europe ,She has been longlisted for the IMPAC prize  and her novels have also caused much discussion in Turkey .Honour is her eight novel .

My mother died twice .I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten ,but I could never find the time or the will or the courage to write about it .That is ,until recently .I don’t think I’ll ever become a real writer and that’s quite all right now .

The opening lines as the daughter of Pembe tries to tell us her story .


Honour is the story of a family set over three generations and from turkey to London at the heart of the story is Twin sisters and a man .Pembe the sister that wins the man moves to london with her young family .she settles in seventies London .That is one strand the next is in the present day about her son and daughter ,the son has been in Shrewsbury prison for 14 years because he killed Pembe .His sister is now preparing for his return .The third strand is following the grandmother as she kept giving birth to girls .So we see how from the grandmother to the grand-daughter how things have and haven’t changed for turkish women .Well I say Turkish that is another thread this family is half Kurdish .

Adem had spent his entire childhood torn between two fathers his sober Baba and his drunken Babe .The two men lived in the same body .But they were as different from each other as night from day.So sharp was the contrast between them that Adem suspected the drink his father drowned every evening to be some kind of magic potion .

Adem the man who chose Pembe but loved her sister .

I love Shafak style of writing it is lush and hints at magic realism with out ever falling full length into it, the book  has echoes of both writers like Pamuk but also a large chunk of Gabriel Garcia Marquez especially in scope I was reminded of books like Love in the time of Cholera and 100 Years .But this is part of where I found myself struggling maybe it is too much this felt like a great trilogy of three generations stuck into one book .I loved will Self’s umbrella this has a similar feel at times as we cross time to see the family history woven together.I loved the family and especially the time in London in the seventies it so reminded me of bits from my own childhood .I feel if you’re looking for an insight into how Turkish families work from the female point of view this is the book for you .This was my first book for this years shadow man asian  I m staying in turkey for my next read as I read the Pamuk from the shortlist a book set in turkey at the same time this book is set in London .I may also note that Elif has been picked as one of this years jurors for the independent foreign fiction prize .

Have you read her books ?


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caroline
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 18:43:30

    I haven’t read her but I’d like to try her at some point. We have such a srong Turkish in Kurdish population here, some areas of the city are almost completely populated with people from Turkey it would be interesting to read more.
    Have you seen Fatih Akin’s movies? He’s a really powerful filmmaker.


  2. markbooks
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 20:34:54

    Fascinating. I have it in front of me, and will try it shortly. It’s a very feminine list this year, if that’s the best way of putting it. Loads of women’s perspective. Not a bad thing at all, so far.


  3. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 21:30:16

    Love her books, have read The Bastard of Istanbul and The Forty Rules of Love which is two stories in one and the book where she finally touches on her deep knowledge of Rumi.


  4. Annabel (gaskella)
    Dec 13, 2012 @ 14:38:15

    I have this book in my TBR pile. I heard her read from it earlier in the year at the Penguin do – it did sound lush and lyrical in her voice, and also shocking when I heard about Pembe’s murder. Must get around to reading it soon.


  5. JoV
    Dec 13, 2012 @ 20:36:09

    I have heard of Elif Shafak and would like to read one of her books.


  6. Parrish
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 21:13:33

    not heard of, but it does sound like worth tracking down.


  7. Tom Cunliffe
    Dec 16, 2012 @ 08:55:36

    Sounds brilliant Stu. A similar theme to Brick Lane perhaps? Fiction gives the best way of understanding these ethnic communities in London I would think


  8. whisperinggums
    Dec 16, 2012 @ 21:11:25

    Part of me wishes I was doing Man Asian again, Stu … Such an opportunity to read a variety of books I don’t always manage to read, but time just defeats me, particularly at this time of year. I think Pamuk is the on,y Turkish author I’ve read … Would love to read a female one.


  9. jacquiwine
    Dec 23, 2012 @ 08:12:04

    Great review, Stu. I haven’t read any of Shafak’s other books, but I also enjoyed her style of writing in this one. I agree it’s quite lush, textured and compassionate too. I really liked the sections focusing on Pembe’s family in London and the way she shone a light on different family members to paint a broader picture of events from different perspectives.
    It’s quite an ambitious book with a large cast of characters and I wondered if, at times, the narrative felt just a little too stretched in an effort to pull the various strands together? Where the book really succeeds though is in highlighting the differences in the way in which men and women are perceived in the Turkish-Kurdish community (and the contrasting implications if they stray from what is considered to be acceptable behaviour). Overall, I found it a powerful, absorbing and thought-provoking novel.


  10. Edith's Miscellany
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 13:32:42

    There are few translations of Elif Shafak’s works available in German, so I had only a chance to read “The Flea Palace”… and I was delighted. I especially liked the way the author showed the difficulties of combining the Otoman heritage with a modern, thus western-style life. I wrote a review of “The Flea Palace” on my blog, if you’re interested. You’re welcome to read it!


  11. Trackback: Honour by Elif Şafak | JoV's Book Pyramid
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  14. Lisa Hill
    May 12, 2013 @ 00:00:28

    Hi Stu, I think your comment above about a trilogy squeezed into one book is spot on, too much plot struggling for space and not enough development behind it. I didn’t find it very convincing. My review is at http://wp.me/phTIP-5SZ


  15. Trackback: 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak | Winstonsdad's Blog

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December 2012


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