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The Bastard of Istanbul

The Bastard of Istanbul


The Bastard of Istanbul

ratings:
4/5 (37 ratings)
Length:
12 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 18, 2007
ISBN:
9781400173976
Format:
Audiobook

Description

From one of Turkey's most acclaimed and outspoken writers comes a novel about the tangled histories of two families.



In her second novel written in English, Elif Shafak confronts her country's violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. At its center is the "bastard" of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya's mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is a bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction.
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 18, 2007
ISBN:
9781400173976
Format:
Audiobook

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What people think about The Bastard of Istanbul

3.9
37 ratings / 23 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Two girls. Asya lives in Istanbul with her mother, her mother's two sisters, Asya's grandmother, and great-grandmother. She has no clue who her father is. Armanoush (aka Amy) lives half of the time with her American mother, Rose, and Rose's husband, the Turkish American, Mustafa (Asya's uncle). She lives the other half of the time with her Armenian father and his family in San Francisco. Torn between the two worlds she decides to slip between the two homes to Istanbul to learn more about her Armenian roots by visiting with her stepfather's family. Complicated, right?Both girls immediately feel a bond and Asya takes Amy (and the reader) on an intimate tour of Istanbul. Amy, meanwhile, shares with Asya the painful history of the Armenian holocaust which Asya, like many Turks, had disregarded as invented. This was a very enjoyable, startling, and eye-opening story. Wonderful!
  • (5/5)
    I picked this book up at the library when I was in a huge rush just looking for something to read; I had no knowledge about the author or the book before. What a wonderful surprise. This is a tremendous story of family, culture, history, political conflict, and intense personal secrets and consequences.I feel the book is extremely readable (some have commented on what they called an awkward prose style). I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Istanbul in the chapter "Dried Apricots". The book is filled with sadness, yet it has many touches of humor. Logically, the intertwining of the two families may be a stretch, but emotionally it works.The story may be about the Turkish people and the Armenians; however, it says so much more about the influence of past events on individuals and on entire nations. One can never escape the past even if there is no direct knowledge of it. The book is interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking.Highly recommended. Another title set it an entirely different setting but with the similar stuggles, check out Mister Pipand The Septembers of Shiraz
  • (3/5)
    The best books have a balance between language and story, between atmosphere and plot. This one came down a little too much on the side of language/atmosphere for me, for a book that's about "...a secret connection linking (two families) to a violent event in the history of their homeland." I kept thinking, "yes, yes, it's all beautiful/poignant/horrifying, but let's get on with it!" The secret is revealed on page 353 of 357, for those keeping score at home.The title refers to Asya, the daughter in a house full of women--her mother, her three aunts, and her grandmother. But this isn't really Asya's story. It's not really the story of anyone in that house, either. It's the story of [spoiler]her great-grandmother[/spoiler]Shushan, an elderly Armenian woman living in San Francisco, but you don't know that until the last two pages, and we never get to hear Shusan's own voice tell her story! In the meantime, the book skips forward and backward in time from Istanbul to San Francisco to Arizona in showing the consequences of Shusan's life and choices, down to the most recent generations.The book's main strength, besides the language, is illustrating the history between Armenia and Turkey, a subject I'm grateful to learn more about, as well as the cultural aspects of both. Very well done.The other main weakness concerns a way-too-overused trope [spoiler]the rape of a character to drive the plot [/spoiler]. It's unbelievably lazy, especially when used by a woman! The fact that it also involves [spoiler]incest [/spoiler] makes it even worse, although I do understand why Shafak chose that scenario.I'd recommend this book for people interested in Armenian and/or Turkish history, and students of literary fiction.
  • (5/5)
    This book came back to me. I had it once form the library but then put it aside because another book came up and needed to be read. I then saw this book here again by chance and it looked familiar. I am glad it came back because it is a great and wonderful story.

    It is a story which is woven in a tighter and tighter pattern. Loose ends tie up with other lose ends, people from across the world get linked and intertwined. Food is one of the ways the get linked, family another and grief and pain is another way people find each others.

    A wonderful story brilliantly told. The characters are well defined and painted. I admit, my love for Istanbul made this an especially pleasant read.

    I want more.
  • (3/5)
    Dit is het derde boek dat ik lees van Shafak, de vorige (?The Flea Palace? en vooral ?40 Rules of Love?) stelden me erg teleur. Na het openingshoofdstuk van dit boek dacht ik dat ik eindelijk een goede Shafak te pakken had: de manier waarop ze de 19-jarige, eigenzinnige Zeliha neerzet is erg sterk en de schets van haar Turkse thuismilieu gewoon hilarisch. Maar daarna springt het boek een paar keer vooruit in de tijd, en vooral komt er een eindeloze stroom personages en meanderende verhalen op gang, waardoor je het noorden kwijtraakt. De ironische toon voert nog altijd te bovenhand, maar plots duiken zware discussies over de Armeense kwestie op, we krijgen een les over de gevaren van tattoos en tal van recepten van Turkse en Armeense gerechten; er verschijnt een magische, kwaadaardige Djinn ten tonele om bepaalde dramatische wendingen te verklaren, en soms denk je dat je in een soort Bollywood-soap-scene beland bent. Het is die wisseling van register die me erg stoort. Let wel, Shafak is erg op dreef in de actie-scenes en zelfs de discussie over hoe verschillend Armenen en Turken met hun verleden om gaan (de eersten cultiveren het, de anderen ontkennen het) is best boeiend, maar de verschillende registers van de scenes vloeken soms met elkaar. De afloop van het verhaal (die ik hier niet kan verklappen, zonder de spanning weg te nemen) is problematisch, want pas nu blijkt dat er onder de sterke openingssc?ne een heel traumatisch gegeven stak, waarmee Shafak in de tussenliggende 350 bladzijden niets gedaan heeft. Ik quoteer dit boek iets hoger dan de andere, maar een liefhebber ben ik er zeker niet van.
  • (3/5)
    Dit is het derde boek dat ik lees van Shafak, de vorige (“The Flea Palace” en vooral “40 Rules of Love”) stelden me erg teleur. Na het openingshoofdstuk van dit boek dacht ik dat ik eindelijk een goede Shafak te pakken had: de manier waarop ze de 19-jarige, eigenzinnige Zeliha neerzet is erg sterk en de schets van haar Turkse thuismilieu gewoon hilarisch. Maar daarna springt het boek een paar keer vooruit in de tijd, en vooral komt er een eindeloze stroom personages en meanderende verhalen op gang, waardoor je het noorden kwijtraakt. De ironische toon voert nog altijd te bovenhand, maar plots duiken zware discussies over de Armeense kwestie op, we krijgen een les over de gevaren van tattoos en tal van recepten van Turkse en Armeense gerechten; er verschijnt een magische, kwaadaardige Djinn ten tonele om bepaalde dramatische wendingen te verklaren, en soms denk je dat je in een soort Bollywood-soap-scene beland bent. Het is die wisseling van register die me erg stoort. Let wel, Shafak is erg op dreef in de actie-scenes en zelfs de discussie over hoe verschillend Armenen en Turken met hun verleden om gaan (de eersten cultiveren het, de anderen ontkennen het) is best boeiend, maar de verschillende registers van de scenes vloeken soms met elkaar. De afloop van het verhaal (die ik hier niet kan verklappen, zonder de spanning weg te nemen) is problematisch, want pas nu blijkt dat er onder de sterke openingsscène een heel traumatisch gegeven stak, waarmee Shafak in de tussenliggende 350 bladzijden niets gedaan heeft. Ik quoteer dit boek iets hoger dan de andere, maar een liefhebber ben ik er zeker niet van.
  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I knew next to nothing about the Armenian Genocide, so I'm glad I read this. The book itself was mediocre and not engaging, so I'm not glad I read this.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (2/5)
    I read about 94 pages, and while it was okay, I didn't find myself caring if I found out how it all unfolded. Decided to apply the nancy pearl rule of stopping if not enjoying after 50 pages.
  • (4/5)
    I'm oddly fascinated by Middle Eastern literature because in a way, I find myself to be a blend of Asya and Armanoush -- my past is a fleeting mystery and yet I feel bound to know and honour what little I know of my hertiage. Except that... I wasn't there, I don't know how to take grasp of it and I can't understand it.What I loved about the book was that there just seemed to be so much dichotomy that it screamed to me. Between one searching for answers for her heritage but doesn't really seem to know what it is to be Armenian to another who doesn't embrace their heritage because it's something that has been lost to them -- or never really cared in the first place.And yet while you try to disentangle the assumptions that each person has in the book, you find that their families are so very intertwined that the magical is used to explain how this all occurred.So at the end, one who fights to hold on to her heritage while another claims to deny the past, you find issue and yet admirably in both. You can't escape the past and you can't escape the heritage that has become you.
  • (4/5)
    Fascinating story of the intersection of the lives of a Turkish family with that of an American-Armenian girl, who comes to Istanbul looking for her family's past. Interesting in the way it shows how a topic that has been unmentionable in Turkey -- the fact that a massive wrong really was done to the Armenian community -- is starting to come out into the open. Only starting to: the author found herself in trouble for "anti Turkish speech". As a novel, this is pretty good, if a bit discursive. Also, why do there have to be so many wildly eccentric characters? Still, well worth reading, for enjoyment as well as instruction
  • (2/5)
    Drawn to the book by an NPR review of a more recent work by the author, I enjoyed it enough to finish -- but not enough to recommend it to others. With respect for the author's Turkish roots -- I would be happy to be a student in one of her college classes -- I found the English translation to be wooden and prosaic and the plot very predictable. For all the attention she paid to the main characters, I never felt the author really helped me to "know" them. Also, Shafak's style was terribly scattered and unfocused. She couldn't decide on a consistent tone. Despite all that, since I didn't know much about the Turks' genocide of the Armenians I was glad to read the book for that reason alone.
  • (2/5)
    Very little plot, all character study of two families, both odd, one Turkish and the other Armenian.
  • (5/5)
    Asya does not know who her father is, Armanoush does not understand her family history. Their two families become entwined in several ways and only at the end is it all understood and resolved. The turks do not like to think of the past, and the Armenians can't heal from it, but these two young girls form a friendship, one American and one Turkish. very well-written book, with the characters well-drawn and believable. I learned a lot about the Turkish life-style and the effects of the Armenian holocaust several generations later from reading this book.
  • (4/5)
    I love the way the various threads of each characters history are interwoven. A book of unique and beautiful women. My only complaint is that the there was alot of plot and chracter development at the beginning of the novel, but then this seems to be abandoned and it drives quickly ahead to a mediocre and rushed finish. Despite this it is worth the read
  • (4/5)
    This is an entertaining novel and a wonderful story of how the cultures of two families become intertwined with their personal relationships.Elif Shafak has created two fascinating young women, one a Turk living in Istanbul with her Aunts and one an Armenian living in Arizona with her mother and stepfather. Each girl is intelligent and they both enjoy reading although one is obsessed with existentialist authors while the other is immersed in modern literature. It is clear that the author has read Kundera and others, even though her book is sometimes a bit uneven and some of the large cast of characters are mere shadows.How the girls, Asya and Armanoush, come to know each other and their lives come together as the history of their families unfolds makes this a fascinating story. With the ghosts of the Armenian genocide in the background and other dark ghosts closer to home you are not surprised when one of the "Aunts" consults her jinns for help with the family mysteries. I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it for those interested in Turkish and Armenian culture as it changes in the current world.
  • (4/5)
    Beautifully written and full of life, this book is a must read. Every character has an amazing and powerful personality that defines both themselves and the lives of those around them. Welcome to a small world where families can be unknowingly reunited from across the globe and enemies find that some of the strongest friendships can be made with each other. Though touched with flashes of tragedy, this book was inspiring; it showed the strength and love of women and family. A moving read.
  • (2/5)
    This book wasnt really my cup of tea. It was not a bad book. I just didn't connect with it much like I thought I would. I did honestly almost give up on the book, but I didn't and I am glad that I read it. Although, I really cant say much more than that. The characters, are human, you follow their struggles, and their life.
  • (4/5)
    The Bastard of Istanbul is the second novel in English written by Turkish writer Elif Shafak. Initially banned in Istanbul, this book deals with the mistakes of the past and what repercussions it has had on those that have learned to live with the results, be hidden from them, or deny them.It centers around the lives of two young women: Asya, a Nihilistic Turkish Istanbulite who is raised by her rebellious mother and her eccentric aunts; and Armanoush, a shy Armenian-American college student in Arizona who is curious about her family's past. Armanoush's grandmother survived the 1915 genocide of ethnic Armenians by the Turks, and traveled to San Francisco to re-begin her life. Armanoush decides to travel to Istanbul to dig up a bit of her family's past - by staying with her Turkish stepfather's family...Asya, her mother, and her aunts.Told from the perspectives of Asya's friends and family, Armanoush's grandmother's tales, and those of an enslaved djinn - Elif Shafak delivers angles without judgment. This book is highly readable and very enjoyable. It moves along at a comfortable pace. The families of Asya and Armanoush are as crazy and overwhelming as they are loving and close. Although this isn't a complete history of the events of 1915, it is a good overview for those who are curious, and a good starting point or supplement for those who are interested in further study on the topic.Okay, I really liked this book. The two main characters - Asya and Armanoush - are wonderfully drawn. There's no sappy "and the two girls from opposite sides became best friends and lived happily ever after hearts flowers kisses!!!!!
  • (4/5)
    Elif Shafak very nearly had to serve a three year prison term in Turkey because of some dialogue she gives to her Armenian protagonists. In the end wise heads prevailed in Turkey and she was just cautioned. Her story seems quite light-weight at first and never loses its humour and humanity. The themes are far from humorous however, and like Orhan Pamuk, she gives a real insight into the complexity of modern-day Turkey. The structure of the book is very clever and it is a most satisfying read.
  • (5/5)
    With a backstory about the Armenian holocaust, this is part historical--part contemporary fiction in the same way that Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides) is constructed. In this case, it's the story of two families, an Armenian family in the U.S. and a Turkish family in Istanbul. In the contemporary story, they are joined by a common relative in the U.S. who is son of the Turkish household and stepfather to an Armenian girl (who decides to go to Istanbul to learn more of her family's past). There is plenty that neither family knows, but fortunately we are privy to some secrets and that helps keep the reader from the same confusion the families feel.
  • (2/5)
    What a mess of a book. I am surprised by how highly rated it has been. I don't know if its from the goodwill for her first book, or because the subject covers the Armenian genocide and Turkish denial. Perhaps people feel the need to support the Armenians and give the book a pass. Or it may be the fact that the Turkish government charged her briefly with Insulting Turkishness, and readers are rallying to her defense.But it can't be from the writing, the story or the characters.The book starts out in a florid over the top style with inappropriate adjectives crammed everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised to find a 'moment' described as strawberry, or a a 'thought' to be described as rubble-filled. It is a chore to read it and slows you down trying to pick the relevant from the dross.The characters in the story are also florid and more cartoons, than real people. It is like reading about Popeye. You don't believe in them, and you don't care about them. I also found myself wondering about the motivations for their titanic thoughts, actions and feelings. I was distracted from what little there was of the story.The story jumps all over the place. You get a chapter each on the two characters who represent the two families the book covers. In both chapters there is mostly telling and very little showing. The other characters introduced in the chapters have very little dimension or reality to them. After the introductory chapters the story jumps 19 years into the future and starts again with two new characters.The book is the story of two families from Istanbul. One is Turkish and the other is Armenian. The Armenian family has moved to America and settled in San Francisco. The story focuses on the two daughters, the one in Istanbul a bastard in a family of women, and the other the child of divorce between her Armenian father with an extended family, and her southern-American mother. The two families are tied together because the Armenian daughter's mother marries the son of the Turkish family who was sent to the USA for College. Both daughters struggle to find themselves and create a separate identity from their families and their heritage. They also explore their heritage since both have only a small part of the story.The book also explores the human tragedy of the Armenians, since the Armenian family are survivors of the event. The Turkish family never speaks or thinks of the event, and in fact some don't know the details, since it is not taught or discussed in Turkey. Family dynamics are explored as is modern big city ennui, and the concept of wallowing in victim-hood.The book starts to get better around 200 pages in. The florid style is under more control, and the characters start to seem human. The story settles in Istanbul and becomes a tale about a couple of characters and their lives. Eventually all the characters end up in Istanbul, where the stage is set for the exposition of two big family secrets. At that point the author just screws the whole book up.Rather than deal with the secrets, release them, and then work out the aftermath, she prevents one from being discussed, and just hides the other one away. The book ends with no resolution, nothing. The characters are just left hanging and the issues are unresolved. What a cheap cop out. I certainly have no plans to read this author again
  • (5/5)
    The book goes through the lives of three generations of Turkish women plus a world apart but somehow connected an Armenian girl. The novel brings out some very sensitive issues usually ignored by turkish population. The author of the book been Turkish herself got my greatest admiration for writing trully about an issue that she is by law not allowed to write.
  • (5/5)
    A great book; delves into the intricacies of family, identity, and where these things place us in the past and the present. Wonderfully written, engrossing, engaging, and relevant. I recommend Louis de Berniere's Birds Without Wings as a precursor if you are unfamiliar with the Armenian/Turkish history.