The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak


Two and a half stars, read in 2010.

I had pretty mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, style-wise it was very irritating to read. On the other hand, there were some really beautiful parts, and the story delved into a culture that I’ve never known much about (but it turns out is actually pretty familiar to some cultures that I do know).

The thing I hated the most is that her characters all feel like they fell right out of a mold. Not only are they called by descriptive epithets as nicknames (the Exceptionally Untalented Poet, the Closeted-Gay Columnist, the Nonnationalist Scenarist of Ultranationalist Movies), every statement out of their mouths sounds like a script from the stereotype they come from. Just because someone’s a poet, everything they say has to include the word “poetry”? Because someone’s a lesbian, everything she says is something about how men suck? The gay man opens his mouth for the first time in a conversation and what he says is something about vulgarly macho heroes created to ridicule the effeminacy of the enemy? Give me a break. There is more than one facet to a human being.

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