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The Museum of Innocence Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 20, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2009: The story of Kemal, the half-hearted industrialist who is the hero of The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk's first novel since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a deeply private one, built around an often inexplicable obsession that he attempts to justify to the reader. In honor of Füsun, the poor, beautiful cousin he had a short affair with when he was 30 and engaged to another, he has hoarded a museum of relics, both of their time together and of the much longer time when, like Gatsby drawn by the green light on Daisy's dock, he hovered at the edge of her life, held in check (but yet held nearby) by the proprieties of Turkish society. From Kemal's passion Pamuk constructs a masterful meditation on time, desire, and possession, saturated with the details of the city of Pamuk's youth: the brand names, the film stars, the streets, the intricate social relations between classes and between modernity and tradition. It's as if the museum of the title was built in honor not of Füsun but of Istanbul, circa 1975. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nobel laureate Pamuk's latest is a soaring, detailed and laborious mausoleum of love. During Istanbul's tumultuous 1970s, Kemal Bey, 30-year-old son of an upper-class family, walks readers through a lengthy catalogue of trivial objects, which, though seeming mundane, hold memories of his life's most intimate, irretrievable moments. The main focus of Kemal's peculiar collection of earrings, ticket stubs and drinking glasses is beloved Füsun, his onetime paramour and longtime unrequited love. An 18-year-old virginal beauty, modest shopgirl and poor distant relation, Füsun enters Kemal's successful life just as he is engaged to Sibel, a very special, very charming, very lovely girl. Though levelheaded Sibel provides Kemal compassionate relief from their social strata's rising tensions, it is the fleeting moments with fiery, childlike Füsun that grant conflicted Kemal his deepest peace. The poignant truth behind Kemal's obsession is that his museum provides a closeness with Füsun he'll never regain. Though its incantatory middle suffers from too many indistinguishable quotidian encounters, this is a masterful work. (Oct.)
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 535 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266767
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is the first of Pamuk's novels that truly captivated me. Although others were good, this is the one that made me understand the way he is lauded as a novelist. Kemal, the main character, is indeed a jerk, but so much a product of his time, place, and class, that one gradually lets him off the hook. What is more impressive is the way his obsession with Fusun starts out as a self-indulgent rich boy fantasy, and then morphs into something more disturbing. And it does it so gradually, that one is hard pressed to decide just when he stops being simply in love/lust with a woman he cannot easily have (partly because he cannot easily have her), and when he starts becoming creepy and unhinged. Then quite gently he is rehabilitated into a quirky but not precisely mentally unstable older man, and we get some wonderful reflections on memory, nostalgia, and the evocative power of commonplace objects. I really felt that I was in the hands of a master as I read this book. Maybe other readers saw where the story was going, but I didn't, and I loved watching it unfold. Having spent time in Turkey in the 1970s, I can vouch for the fact that the classism and sexism of his story is a beautifully rendered reflection of the social tensions of the time. I appreciated how accurately Pamuk portrayed it and how lovingly he critiqued it. Though one suspects, based on the way he is himself inserted into the text in a rather self-congratulatory way, that he doesn't quite understand how bad it all was for those not walking around with wealthy male privilege. He's got Kemal's perspective down brilliantly; I'd love to see him try to really tell a story like this from inside the perspective of Fusun. I suspect he can't.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pamuk in 'The Black Book' asked if it was possible to just be yourself. Here we have over 500 pages of a man being not only himself - but only himself to the exclusion of the reality of the world. Thus, the author answered his earlier question (in depth).

Filled with years of tedium and few moments of action; the story slowly winds its way through Kemal's obsession with the beautiful Fusun. Those years pass as if the rest of his life has absolutely no meaning.

This is a narrative told in the first person by Kemal that presents word pictures of the characters, the neighborhoods and Istanbul itself. The tone captured the times and events and, in particular, the feelings of Kemal.

Only on looking back at the entire book, when the tedium is over, could I appreciate the telling of the lives of Fusun and Kemal, and of the others who were involved with them. Most lives are not 'exciting' to us when described and yet they are as exciting to those living them as ours are to us.

I kept turning the pages and imagining the 'museum' and how the story would eventually end. I'm not always able to predict the ending of a book, but this time I did - and it didn't affect the story. The best way to describe my feelings is that the whole was greater than the sum if its parts.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Let me preface my review by admitting that I am a huge sucker for well written romance stories, even ones that may lack the literary genius that define masterpieces. This potentially contributed to the mesmerizing experience I had from reading this book. That said, Orhan Pamuk is a great writer who demonstrates an uncanny ability to put out beautiful and poignant literatures, as evident in all his previous work. I had the pleasure to listen to his talk at the New Yorker Festival last year where he talked about the experience of writing his book. As fascinating and hilarious as his speech was, I don't think he was able to convey what readers should be expecting in Museum of Innocence.

Museum of Innocence is a love story that alludes to much more. It is said that this is Pamuk's first novel about love (I disagree). The story is centered on Kemal's experience of encountering his love Fusun, as an almost married man, losing her and trying to win her back. Almost the entire story is told from his perspective because he represents multiple oppressive forces that existed in Turkish society in the 70s and 80s, despite his own resentment of these forces. The story is divided into short chapters with titles that convey metaphysical inquiries about love and happiness in the most colloquial and at times cliché language. The writing itself is rather poetic but contains a greater dose of realism than Snow. The storyline is punctuated with breathtaking imageries. Kemal's obsession with Fusun, manifested through his fetish of collecting the objects with associations with Fusun, is absurd by nature but made real and even what somewhat sensible by Pamuk.
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Format: Hardcover
Orhan Pamuk's novels abound with a wealth of probing, social leitmotifs that are gracefully orchestrated into a Turkey perpetually wrestling with its hallowed traditions and a hollow modernization of Western import. In My Name is Red, the brilliantly written, Borgesian novel that won him the prestigious IMPAC Dublin award, he maps an arabesque, philosophical outtake on 16th century Turkey by focusing on its already tense relations with the ancient West. In Snow, another Byzantine masterwork of such poignant political urgency, Mr. Pamuk explores the dissidence aroused between Islamism and Westernism within a narrative steeped in the vagaries of a more recent era.

In The Museum of Innocence, Mr. Pamuk has yet again chosen to undertake a somewhat tendentious cultural issue: that of virginity's cherished sanctity among Turkish women living in an Istanbul metamorphosing with the changing trends. Kemal Basmac', the Byronic hero of this ornately beautiful and bittersweet piece, tells us that "virginity was still regarded as a treasure that young girls should protect until the day they married. Following the drive to Westernize and modernize, and (even more significantly) the haste to urbanize, it became common practice for girls to defer marriage until they were older, and the practical value of this treasure began to decline in certain parts of Istanbul.
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