The Bastard of Istanbul- A paper-back, word ride to Istanbul

The Bastard of Istanbul

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Reviewing The Bastard of Istanbul…

DON’T READ The Bastard of Istanbul if you have not finished reading the book yet. I don’t want you to hate me.

If you haven’t read this book yet, I advise you do. I’m sure this post will trigger you to.

I don’t mean to write an excruciatingly critical opinion of what I think about The Bastard of Istanbul, or why you should or should not read it. I decided to review this book for what a beauty it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

The book is a cross-generational saga of carefully crafted incidents and characters, which ties in perfectly with the intense and schematic nature of the plot. The book is a hybrid of bitter and sweet, shocking and intriguing, love and fear, realism and culture.

The story begins when Zeliha, a rebellious member of an all-women household, who wants to go through an abortion but somehow cannot gather enough courage to do that, thus, ends up having a daughter who is named Asya. The entire plot revolves around the lives of these two extremely nonchalant yet strong women.

The writer Elif Shafak does a wonderful job in constructing character profiles through words. Whether it’s the rebellious, mini-skirt and high-heels wearing Tattoo- Artist Zeliha, the keen Reader, hungry for adventure Armanoush, or the Johnny Cash Listening, excessive jewelry-wearing Daughter Asya, who just wants to break free. All these hypothetical names soon take place as real characters in the mind of the reader. And let’s just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful the names of the characters are.

One of the finest book written about the Turkish culture

The Bastard of Istanbul has received its fair share of criticism and so has the author for putting together a novel so outspoken, that too for her home country; she was almost sent to prison. Nonetheless, as we explore the book chapter after chapter, the mind wanders. Before we know it, we are in this spellbinding realm of history and culture. In other words, this books grabs you by the hand (and mind), and takes you on a cognitive tour of the city of Istanbul; all in your head, yet, very real and extremely accurate down to every tiny detail.

Whether it is about the hospitality of Turkish Airlines or the names of the streets, the names of Turkish delicacies or the landmarks of Istanbul, the evil eye or the Turkish tapestry, the tea cups or the fortune telling; the book opens up to a whole new world of experiences.

The author basically effortlessly brings Istanbul right in front of your eyes. The Bastard of Istanbul takes you to a wild ride to experience Turkish culture in its entirety.

Makes you want to visit Istanbul for real

There is something so bewitching about the Turkish culture, especially the city of Istanbul that while you flip through the pages of The Bastard of Istanbul, it feels like the pages of the book have become open arms that are inviting you to visit and experience the wondrous joy that it has to offer.

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You seem to know about the city even before you get there


It would feel like you have taken a full tour of the city of Istanbul as soon as you finish reading. You would be familiar with the landmarks, some (if not all, because the city is HUGE) of the neighborhoods, names of the food items, architecture, unique Turkish names, people and their hospitality, their history, even weather in Istanbul. If you visit Istanbul after reading the book, not only would you have a lot to talk about with the locals, but it would totally amaze them how much you know about their country, which they deeply appreciate by the way.

Creative chapter titles

Let’s just spend a moment of silence for how creative and beautiful the chapter names are. Each chapter is named after food. And as you read through, each name is intriguing enough to build up excitement about what the contents of the chapter might bring. Without a doubt, it seems as though each food ingredient came to life and incorporated themselves to add more flavor to the story.

The author took an innovative approach to give food such a mysterious angle. As a reader, it undeniably created a lot of anticipation as to how each food item was made part of the story and talked about so effortlessly as though the entire story was dependent on them.

Bad end

The only thing that bums me out is how the book ends. It could have gone in so many other directions and ended in a way much more satisfying to the readers.

The entire book and the author’s story-telling style has a pace. However, the last few pages pick up a lot of speed. It almost feels as though the author was in a rush to finish it. The end also seems really disconnected from the rest of the plot. The focus shifts; so much so, that it comes as an unpleasant shock. Because it is very different from what the readers have been made prepared for.

After the last page is read and the book is put down, there is a feeling of displeasing curiousness and a little bit of anger. The story is left unfinished. If not, then the story about the right person is left unfinished. Some things are left untold, and they end up being figment of the reader’s imagination.

All in all, the book could really use one more chapter, with a more realistic and satisfactory ending.

I am so glad I wrote my mind about this book without spoiling for the current/new readers. Have you read “The Bastard of Istanbul” yet?

Read my review on Goodreads

Food for thought: Spirituality- The other dimension to connecting with God

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