Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Honor-Elif Shafak-Terrific-Traditional-A True Treasure

Honor was an incredible read and I am not just saying this because the author is a family friend of ours but because Shafak truly is a gifted writer. It is no doubt one of my favourite 'non-YA' novels yet, with its great foundation of culture and religion! Partly why I enjoyed it the way I did is probably due to how I could relate to it. The novel is based on the lives of a big and traditional Kurdish-Turkish family, who have moved to London in the hopes of bigger and better opportunities.

As some of you may know, I too am originally Turkish but live in London, so the characters and I share some similarities. And so when reading Turkish words and phrases or when exposed to the familiar Turkish culture I felt a pang of joy. Yet, unlike my family, religion and honour hold great importance in the household of the fictional family, who also put many traditional values into place. For example, the mother Pembe, has by default taken on the role of solely cooking, cleaning and taking her of her three children. 

hough the family have moved to a more westernised country, England, both parents' mindsets are still rather traditional and this reflects a lot onto the events. However, life for Pembe only becomes more burdensome and tiresome when her husband and children's father, Adem leaves them for another woman, somewhat dishonouring the family. Pembe has devoted her life to serving others and she receives nothing but oppression from her religion and culture in return. Amongst many of the emotions I felt while reading the novel, pity and empathy for Pembe were the most dominant. The dehumanisation of such a bright and humble soul was devastating.

The reader is aware of the incident and what it is at the start of the novel. The novel works its way through the events that caused Iskender, Pembe's first son, her 'Sultan', to end her life and so in a way, it is a gradual progress through the past, leading to the present. When Pembe starts having a chaste affair, it is not long until her family catch wind of her secret. Her two other children try to keep it hidden from Iskender, knowing that he would be ashamed and feel as though their mother has disgraced and dishonoured their family further. As Iskender is now the man of the house, he feels as though he has authority over his mother and would see it as his role to try to stop her.  However, circumstances are different and not particularly safe because Iskender is a belligerent and aggressive youth, who naturally holds dominance over others and so his predicted actions threatening.

At first, the structure of the novel was a little confusing, but once I had a clear understanding of each family member and their role and had learnt their names, I learnt to value it. All I felt whilst reading was a desire for each chapter to end so that I could read the next chapter and discover more of each individual's secrets. Each chapter is either narrated or based on the key events that took place in the lives of varying characters until the incident. They also play a significant role in grasping the history and values of the family, as well as acting like puzzle pieces. The history in a chapter varies; some are based on the time when Pembe and her twin Jamila were children growing up in their native Kurdish town, and others are more recent recounts. The town acts almost like the root of everything and throughout the novel, I could not help but feel like the present was occasionally mirroring the past.

Another reason for why it was so enjoyable to read was because the more you read, the more connections you were able to lake between events and the more you could identify when the past was foreshadowing the future. In addition, the variety of characters also made the novel unique. Those who resembled the past, this includes the family's extended family, were more traditional and less modernised in their approach to things, the strong roots of honour beginning with them. It was immensely interesting to read and realise how very different rural life was and might still be now to life in cities.  The novel gave me an insight into life in a native Kurdish village which otherwise I never would have been given. I also thought it was was shocking to see how far family values can be treasured and honoured years into the future.  

Usually, I would write a paragraph on the main character but unlike other novels, there wasn't a stronger or more important role in this one. Every word said and the movement of each and every character had a reason, meaning and consequence.

All in all, I honestly wasn't expecting this novel to be anywhere as impressive as it is. I definitely want to recommend it to all my followers but as it does contain some adult themes, I cannot. Therefore, to my younger followers, wait a few years until you read it. It's going to be difficult, I'm not going to lie. Finally, to everyone, get ready to feel a wave of frustration when you reach the last few pages; be prepared for a twist...


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