The Bastard of Istanbul

This book was recommended to me by inji, and as I trust her book judgement, I did my best to find that book , and finally made the order from Amazon.it to deliver it to me in Albania in 3 weeks.

I was encouraged by the front page review, comparing it to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, which I enjoyed tremendously (novel and movie). So It became my companion after finishing Dune. 

It’s true that there are some resemblance between the two books. Both of them focus on women, immigrants, taking the views of different personalities, going from the past to the present swiftly. But they are also very different in their mood and style. For example, the Bastard of Istanbul also included the stories of some of the men, though they are few. Plus, it aimed at highlighting some aspects of the Armenian tragedy in the beginnings of the 20th century, and the sensitive relations between Turks and Armenian.

The story is about 2 intertwining families, one is Turkish living in Istanbul, and the other is Armenian living in the US. A girl of the Turkish family is a nihilist and doesn’t know who her father is, she is rebelious against lots of things, on top of them is her family (mother, aunts, grandmother and great-grandmother). The other girl from the Armenian American family, wants to know more about her “Armenian-ness”, so she embarks on a secret mission to discover her grand mother’s roots in Istanbul.

As for myself, I am feeling guilty that I didn’t know much about the Armenian tragedy, though I know some Armenian friends, and I know that there are lots of Armenians who live in Egypt, and they are famous for their delicate work, especially in jewelry making.

Because of this novel, Elif Shafak was put on trial in 2006 for “denigrating Turksihness”, due to some of the Armenian rhetoric some of the characters express in the novel! But eventually, the charges were dropped.. Elhamdlelah, it would be a shame to go to prison for such a novel.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It is so demanding to be born into a house full of women, where everyone loves you so overwhelmingly that they end up suffocating with their love; a house where you, as the only child, have to be more mature than all the adults around….
But the problem is that they want me to become everything they themselves couldn’t accomplish in life…..
As a result, I had to work my butt off to fulfill all their dreams at the same time.” 

I totally understand what she means, and I try (will try) not to impose on my daughter paths in her life she doesn’t necessary like, but she might push herself to do just to please me, because I would not have accomplished them myself… Complicated, hein? That’s why I will do my best not to dwell too much into the role of the all-sacrificing-mother, partly to feel accomplishment myself, and partly because it’s not fair for a generation to work hard only to accomplish what the previous one didn’t.

“The Iron Rule of prudence for an Istanbulite Woman: If you are as fragile as a tea glass, either find a way to never encounter burning water and hope to marry an ideal husband or get yourself laid and broken as soon as possible. Alternatively, stop being a tea-glass woman!” 
“You see, unlike in the movies, there is no THE END sign flashing at the end of books. When I’ve read a book, I don’t feel like I’ve finished anything. So I start a new one.” 

A bit bibliomania??😉

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