Honour by Elif Shafak

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Honour Longlisted for the 2013 Women’s Fiction Prize

Five words from the blurb: Turkey, London, traditions, mistakes, families

Honour is the story of a Turkish family who are haunted by their mistakes. Pembe and Adem Toprak move to London in order to start a new life, but Turkish traditions are never far from their mind. Maintaining the family’s “honour” is vitally important, but this book questions how far a person should go to protect it.

The book started really well with the introduction of some fantastic characters. I was instantly engaged in their story, keen to work out what was happening. It was a little confusing at first because the book jumped forwards and backwards in time, but each chapter was so vivid that I didn’t mind this.

The most impressive thing about Honour is the way it portrays both Eastern and Western cultures with sensitivity and respect. I didn’t know much about Turkish tradition, but this book introduced their beliefs in a way that was easy to comprehend. I understood the dilemmas they faced in maintaining their public image and found the way this impacted on their life in London fascinating.

In England things were topsy-turvy. The word couscous, though ordinary, was treated with reverence. Yet the word shame, though substantial, was taken quite lightly.

Unfortunately I lost interest in the story towards the middle of the book. Everything came together and I felt as though I knew where the story was heading. Luckily I was wrong, but I still felt this middle section was overly long and lacked the sparkle of the rest of the novel.

I ended the book with mixed feelings, expecting to award it 4 stars. But this is one of those rare books that improves with time. On reflection it kept getting better – an impressive number of issues were raised and it is only with hindsight that I realised how clever some of the earlier scenes were. I’m sure that even more would be revealed on a re-read, making this a strong contender for the shortlist.

It is one of my favourite books of the year so far and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys character driven novels that investigate how culture impacts on our lives.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

Note: I couldn’t find a bad review for this one!

Personally, Elif Shafak looks set to be my favourite author. JoV’s Book Pyramid

I love Shafak’s style of writing – it is lush and hints at magic realism. Winstonsdad’s Blog

It continues to make you read it even after you have closed the last page. Just a Word

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  1. Louise says:

    Any book where you can’t find any bad reviews at all must be a good bet. Will add to my ever-growing TBR pile.

    I’ve only visited Turkey once but am fascinated by the culture and traditions so this does seem like a decent bet.

    1. Jackie says:

      Louise, I’ve never visited Turkey, but I imagine this book is even better if you have – enjoy!

  2. Tanya says:

    interesting review. I was not overly blown away by Honour. You lost interest in the middle of the book but I had problems getting into it. Overall I think i’d give it a 4/5 at best. Here’s my review of it. http://wp.me/p2Y7aN-5T

    1. Jackie says:

      Tanya, I can see why people might find it a difficult book to get into – I admit that the opening is slow/confusing, but I liked that. It is nice to read something that keeps me on my toes and rewards concentration. Sorry you didn’t love it in the same way I did, but 4/5 stars is good enough for me!

  3. Mystica says:

    I like to read immigrant stories as with three children living abroad I feel quite empathetic towards them. Doing the balancing act between things at “home” and in your new country is a tough act and very few seem to get the balance right.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mystica, It will be interesting to see if you think this book feels authentic. I hope you decide to give it a try at some point.

  4. I’m reading this at the moment and really enjoying it. I’m a big fan of Turkey as I spent 3 weeks backpacking there back in 1998 – beautiful country, so diverse, stacks of history. Would love to see this on the WFP shortlist.

    1. Jackie says:

      Liz, I hope I can get to Turkey at some point. I look forward to seeing your review soon. :-)

  5. JoV says:

    This is my first Shafak book and I like the way she writes. It could have easily fallen into the stereotypical novel of oppressed lives of Muslim women sort of literature, but it didn’t. She has been longlisted for so many awards, I think she deserves to be shortlisted.

    I am so glad you like it! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I loved the fact it didn’t revert to stereotypes too. It was also great that she wasn’t afraid to be controversial. Fingers crossed for the shortlist!

  6. Charlie says:

    I was thinking you might say it’s a contender for the shortlist, it sounds like it might indeed be if your thoughts are anything to go by. From what you’ve said it appears very accessible and informative whilst keeping the plot important.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, I wouldn’t say it was really accessible – the first bit is quite hard to get into. But it is informative and has a fantastic plot. I think it is a strong contender for the shortlist.

  7. stujallen says:

    Like me you like this my main problem was it was actually two short for me ,I thought it coulld made three book the three genrations but will be tryiong her other books soon ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I’d love to read a sequel to this one – that is the great thing about fantastic books – they always leave you wanting more!

  8. Isi says:

    Sounds like a good reading. I love books about other cultures, and I usually like them when the author is able to explain their traditions and religion in a simple but communicative way.
    I didn’t know the book so thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Isi, Thanks for commenting on my blog for the first time! I’m pleased I was able to introduce you to this book. Enjoy!


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