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"Elif Shafak's new novel reveals such a timely confluence of today's issues that it seems almost clairvoyant . . . There are novels you want to cherish in the sanctity of your own adoration, and then there are novels you feel impatient to talk about with others. Press Three Daughters of Eve on a friend or your book club for a great conversation about this flammable era we live in now." - Washington Post
"Three Daughters of Eve . . . offers a complex portrayal of Turkey." - New Yorker
"Turkey's best-known female novelist, Elif Shafak, has been building a body of work that needles her country's historical amnesia . . . The ways in which an unresolved past can fuel present-day tensions is the subject of Shafak's vivid and timely eighth novel." - Vogue
"A beautifully rendered tale of homeland and faith." - Marie Claire
"Safak is one of Turkey's most popular novelists, and her fiction and nonfiction has been translated around the world. Three Daughters of Eve, her 10th novel, takes place in contemporary Istanbul, but looks back on an earlier era, as Peri, a wealthy housewife, recalls her friendship with two fellow students at Oxford University. Together, these three young women became close through their studies, debating the role of women in Islam, and falling under the influence of a charismatic but controversial professor. The scandal that broke them apart still haunts Peri." - The Millions, "Most Anticipated"
"Rich and complex . . . Shafak explores themes of femininity and spirituality and extremism and political oppression in a way that feels thoughtful and refreshing." - Harpers Bazaar
"This is a truly modern novel--about the way we are shaped by politics, including freedom of expression and political repression, but also by our personal relationships." - Sadiq Khan, Financial Times, "Best Books of 2017"
"From Turkish writer Elif Shafak, Three Daughters of Eve follows a wealthy woman in Istanbul whose university friendships become touchstones as she navigates politics of Islam and feminism." - San Diego Magazine, "5 Books to Read in December"
"Shafaq has masterfully created equally lush portraits of warm and complicated Istanbul and cold and collected Oxford. . . . Three Daughters of Eveis a marvelous lesson in multiculturalist angst, the clash between modernity and tradition, and the vicissitudes of personal struggle. A must-read that entertains and informs without preaching." - New York Journal of Books
"Shafak is a brilliant chronicler of the ills that plague contemporary society and once again proves her mettle." - Booklist
"[Shafak's] portrait of a woman in existential crisis feels universal, shining clarifying light on Islam--and religious spirituality in general--within the frame of today's world." - Kirkus Reviews
"Readers interested in debates about the nature of God will find the book intriguing." - Publishers Weekly
"Shafak deftly captures Peri's struggles with faith, her attempts to please the people she loves and her ongoing attempts at the art of feigning happiness." - Starred review, Shelf Awareness
"Turkish author Shafak uses rich, thought-provoking prose to illuminate women's struggles and fuse Islam with feminist theory. Like her compatriot Orhan Pamuk, Shafak illustrates the ongoing fissure between Eastern and Western culture in Turkey." - Library Journal
"In striking, lovely language, Shafak considers Islamophobia, teacher-student relationships and terrorism of many kinds. Fresh and timely, this is an approachable novel of big ideas." - BookPage
"Timely, fascinating. . . Three Daughters of Eve slowly teases out the defining moments in the life of its Muslim protagonist." - The Seattle Times
"Elif Shafak's urgent, topical novel explores the ambiguities and dangers of being caught in the Land of Between. The book's protagonist, Peri, is torn between her mother and her father, between her love and hate for a charismatic professor, between the double lures of religiosity and secularism. Three Daughters of Eve upends the omnipresent but crude truisms of East and West, oppression and liberation, right and wrong that continue to divide, torment, and haunt us all." - Siri Hustvedt
About the Author
- File Size : 1136 KB
- Publication Date : December 5, 2017
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 370 pages
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0769BW684
- Publisher : Bloomsbury USA; 1st Edition (December 5, 2017)
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #352,019 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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What didn't I like: 1) I got so tired of hearing about the dinner. That had to be the longest dinner party in the history of the world. 2) We get that she fell for her teacher, but there was never any mention of thoughts of suicide. That seemed to come out of nowhere. We are in the character's head for the entire book. Why not mention some suicidal thoughts? 3) Who is her husband? How did they meet? He seemed to be just there. 4) OMG the ending was awful. Left hanging as if she didn't know how to end the book. 4) How could the prof be nice to her on the phone after what she did? Please! 4) How many times must we hear about God? I ended up skimming much of the latter parts of the book.
One of the few books my book club agreed was awful. Everyone hated it. So, purchase this one at your own risk...
Oh, yes and the title? Where did that come from. What did I miss? Yeah there are three women but Mona hardly appears. Strange.
I would compare certain elements of this book with some of may favorites over the years: "Narcissus and Goldmund" by Hermann Hesse, "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini, "My Brilliant Friend" series by Elena Ferrante , and even "Sea of Poppies" by Amitov Ghosh.
In each of these similar and well written coming of age stories, we see the effects of the culture, the upbringing, the interaction with schoolmates and close friends, the prevailing philosophies and different school teachers, mentors and religious beliefs. Over time, each character reacts and grows into the adult person with all of their strengths and weaknesses.
Elif has accomplished this in such a compelling and great way. We end up having great respect and love for each of the three directions that the three muslim friends take, the theist, the atheist and the agnostic. I think I loved this about the book the most.
If you had a great time in college, wish now that you'd've been even more diligent, had a few professors who challenged some of your core beliefs, and hopefully helped you out of your protected little world and open to brilliant ideas from multiple sources, I think you'll enjoy this book even more.
I'm glad I found this author. I've heard of a few of her other books and now I'll read some of them. She is brilliant, her writing is crystal clear, well organized, her insight into human relationships and how real life operates is amazing. This was a five plus Goodread for me. Thanks to Elyse and Michael for their glowing five star reviews.
What she's done well, however, is to have offered us three remarkable descriptions of milieu:
* a dysfunctional family life that's more or less based upon a clash of modernism vs tradition.
* Oxford academia in all its self-contained glory
* Dinner with Istanbul's Booboisie.
From the assumed perspective of our heroine, Turkey consists of Unreal Cities; her quest is the mystical insight given by The Silence. Now Oxford somewhat delivers this to her but offers only a partial solution that will be painfully realized 14 years hence. This, moreover, will come only with the price of the personal tragedies of betrayal and near-death. And needless to mention, our 'Mouse' will encounter the ambiguities of her Eros, and how it drives our ability to reason into a state of chaos.
The story begins with her flight from Uskader—the town directly over the Bosphorus from Istanbul. Lots of terrible stuff happens here that would impel any sensitive, smart kid to leave: a police raid nabs her brother as a marxo-terrorist suspect, her sister in law is humiliated by a virginity test, a nagging religiously obsessed nagging mom. So how does all this describe the actual state of Asian-side affairs circa 2000? Or rather, is our author preening at chovani stereotypes that she might have heard about –having, of course, never lived there herself?
Moreover, as an academic star, Peri could have easily chosen one of the excellent universities in the Istanbul area which, by the way, offer instruction in English. Yet nothing is offered as a motive to go to England; we're simply hung with a vague supposition that, remarkably, resembles the author's own choice as someone who grew up in Europe!
Another narrative flaw is the ridiculous character of Azur. For example, his humiliation of Peri when she suggests a skeptical attitude towards god because he ignores justice. This was both inappropriate and pretentiously rude.
It's moreover something you'd only find in either a crummy teevee script like 'The Paper Chase' or in the fantasies of republikan parents who've sent their children off to The University of Arizona. Oxford, this is not.
And what, exactly, is he teaching? Oxford's Divinity courses are not about pitting devout Muslims against islamophopobes in a nasty polemic of presumed 'opposites'. This, again, probably refers to our author's experience with bored, angry under-achievers on an amerikan campus. Or perhaps she's confused guest speaker sideshows with the realities of instruction?
And what, exactly, impels our heroine to attempt suicide? A frustrated love for her professor? Come on. And why would she abandon her secure hiding place in the closet when there were three terrorists roaming about, and the police on the way? Being introverted implies neither depression nor abject stupidity.
There's simply no coherent frame of reference that would define Peri's character –thereby making her behavior appear consistent to the reader. A great part of this problem resides with Shafak's method of presenting three epochs in Peri's life without a connecting bridge: youth, college 2001/2 and the narrative present of 2016.
Now this technique is stylishly modern; by temporal absence, the reader is expected to connect his/her own dots. Here, the old photo is supposed to serve as a metaphorical guidepost by conjuring up the past—much as Proust's cup of tea and Madeleine. But it doesn't work. Shafak gets too bogged down in telling her own story from a classic third-person omniscient point of view. This, then, fails as a description of Peru's stream of consciousness, and the vagaries of Remembrance. Rather, it's an alienated, emigre author who's going to tell us what growing up gurl in Turkey is all about.
Most tellingly, when she drops out of college (for frustrated love?!), we read a fast-forward to her present as a bourgeois housefrau with three kids. That's fourteen years of life years of life with disconnected antipodes; there's simply no indication that her past life as a student has had any effect on her present.
All we're given is that photo which she's carried in her wallet. Yet because this obviously isn't the same wallet the carried as a student, there must have been an intent to retain the memory. So how does her phone call connect to the immediate present? Hiding in a closet from terrorists would seem to be a rather bad time to say howdy.
Narratively speaking, there's a huge rush at the end to inform us that 1) she refused to testify at the hearing that Azur did not have sex with her and 2) because to this, Azur was found guilty. Both are utter nonsense.
Lastly, our author seems lacking in understanding what 'agnosticism' is. In any case, the word does not appear in the novel. Yet by any application, Peri is an agnostic, not the 'seeker' imagined by Azur.
She doubts the existence of god because its omnipotence would make it responsible for injustice. This argument is at least 2500 years old. In this sense, agnosticism does not form any triad with belief/atheism as imagined by our author. Rather, you have many modes of belief and denial. Mysticism, for example, indicates a pursuit by the believer to find god in places not sanctioned by official religion. Sufism, of course, is only one of many particulars.
So this failure to recognize plurality is precisely what our author trivializes into a sophomoric formality that's offered up as “The Three daughters of Eve.” This, I emphasize, is 'storytelling' because it conforms to the reader's expectation that neatly divides the complexities of faith into three neat categories. Oth, a real novel would challenge this...
But help, perhaps, is on the way. Ever since Kieslowski, the cinematic art has discovered ways of reaching into a character's head and, as it were, to film consciousness. What great cinema does, then, is to reveal the spaces between words.
Shafik might be surprised to learn that Turks can do this, too—and quite well at that. A great example is 'Bir Neftes Yeter' (Only one breath to give), which offers a remarkable performance by the heroine, Tuvava Turkay.
So given the proper scripting and screen play, I'd recommend that Ms Turkay would offer us an answer as to what's it like to be a Peri. That is, unless she finds the entire project incoherent and insultingly laughable. You see, she was born are raised in Uskader. She's obtained a master's in cinema from a highly-reputed Turkish (gasp!) university, and is reputedly somewhat of a home body who prefers living across the pond from the Big City.
In any case, I'd be interested in knowing her opinion of Uskader and growing up Peri, as it obviously doesn't correspond to growing up Tuvana. So perhaps she'll say, “Yes indeed, although I dodged the bullet, I'll play Peri because the world needs to know how being raised here induces psychosis!”
Even as a frequent visitor, there's obviously a lot of interpersonal stuff that I miss and, besides, my Turkish is somewhat inadequate. My view of the trans-Bosphorus culture, however, is that it's far more an extension of Istanbul proper than Trabzon redux. As the Turks refer to 'Marmara' versus 'Anatolia' as their own cultural divide, living in Uskader is somewhat akin to Ft Worth to Dallas, or here in Atlanta, 'Outside the perimeter (otp). It's the same story, everywhere, as to what inner sophisticates think of outer yokels. Shafak takes this far too seriously.
So perhaps she is just being metaphorical? If so—for the sake of argument-- then of what? Of a Turkey with which she's completely out of touch? Or is she placing The Belle of Amherst into a degraded, angst-filled Asiatic milieu? My suspicion is 'Eve' is Shafak's apologia to her husband for having abandoned him. Life is so much better in London. Tuvanna, help her, please.
Top reviews from other countries
The author’s descriptions of real events, especially in Turkey, are so extremely graphic that I was taken aback by the mystical visions Peri has at various points in her life.
The book begins in 2016 in Istanbul, with vivid description of Peri, aged 35, stuck in one of the notorious dense traffic jams on her way to the bourgeois party. Istanbul is always a dangerous city. While the car is stuck, street urchins steal a precious handbag from its back seat. She gives chase, catches up with them, but is confronted with their “manager”, who, high on having sniffed glue, drew a knife on her and then (several chapters later) slashed her hand and tried to rape her; but with amazing strength, she drastically and bloodily disabled him, retrieved her handbag and most of its contents.
The flashbacks are, first, to Peri’s childhood in the 1980s, when she was the seven-year old daughter of a warring couple: father an ardent Kemalist secularist, mother an ultra-religious Muslim. Turkey was then governed by the military after a coup in 1980. There is a terrifying police search of their house; they took away her eldest, Marxist, brother, a university student, and tortured him into confessions. He was given an eight year prison sentence. Already as at seven Peri worried how God, in whom she still believed, could let that and other injustices happen.
Another experience she had at that time – and one which would recur several times in her life – was having visions of a baby-shaped djinn in a mist. When she told her father, he mocked; when she told her mother, she took her to an exorcist, but without success.
Peri’s other brother dropped out of university and became a religious and nationalist fanatic, ever quarrelling with his father. Peri, temperamentally hating extremes, sought refuge from the tensions in the family by immersing herself in books, in learning, and in leading an essentially lonely life, full of insecurities about religion. She always came top of her class, and her father was very proud of her and organized, against the wishes of his wife, for her to go to Oxford, in the enlightened West, to study. There she feels other insecurities, about her cultural identity.
Now we have flashbacks to Peri’s time in Oxford. Hints of an upsetting period at Oxford have been scattered throughout Part One. In Part Two she arrives in Oxford so very different from Istanbul - in 2000, aged 19. The upsetting episodes do not come until half-way through the book.
In her college, Peri meets two other Muslim girls: Shirin, a feisty British-Iranian who is mocking about the Muslim beliefs in which she had been brought up; and Mona, a religious hijab-wearing Egyptian-American. Shirin gives Peri the low-down on Oxford student types. Shirin dotes on the charismatic Professor Azur, whose exclusive seminar on God she attends.
As the nature of God had obsessed Peri since her childhood, she managed to be admitted to the seminar. Azur seemed to share her view: critical of the fixed attitudes of both atheism and faith and determined to undermine absolutes, he taught the need for an open mind and continual doubt. Azur’s method of teaching was very unconventional, and it made him enemies as well as admirers. He publicly attacked Peri’s concern with the justice of God, and that made her hate him at the same time as she loved him for his general philosophy.
She was outraged when she found that, in an indirect way, Azur has manipulated Shirin, Mona and Peri (“the Sinner, the Believer and the Confused”) into moving out of college to share a house: he wanted to set up an experiment of getting these three to learn to tolerate each other’s conflicting views. They did indeed argue angrily with each other from the very beginning – and it seems to me unbelievable that Mona and Peri should ever have agreed to move in with Shirin in the first place, let alone that they should have stayed together after so many abrasive rows between Shirin and Mona. Peri re-experienced the discomfort she had always felt when her parents had quarrelled in the same way.
Only 10% from the end does the author as narrator tell us anything of Azur’s back story, and only 5% from the end do we learn exactly why she had such terrible memories of what she had done to ruin him.
At the very end of the book, there is an episode of extreme danger at the dinner party in Istanbul. We are not told how that episode ends; and, during it, Peri has a telephone conversation with Azur in Oxford which is ludicrously unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever read a book with a more unsatisfactory ending.
The parts of the story that take place in Turkey are better than the parts in Oxford, a place which I get the impression the author did not know very well at the time of writing.
The author keeps telling us what people are WEARING: 'A velvet fedora, barely taming his rebellious locks, completed his natty appearance'. Some of the romantic passages are cringe-making: 'In the dancing candlelight, his eyes were forest-green; the tips of his eyelashes seemed to glow, and his lips, which Peri had never dared to examine before, appeared nearly as vivid a colour as the wine he was drinking.' At one point the adored professor, whom we are supposed to see as wonderfully sophisticated and eloquent, tells Peri 'You are very special'. For goodness sake!
The author TELLS us what kind of people her characters are rather than SHOWING us through the action of the novel. Quite early in the story she tells us about the main character: '...it was always people with rough journeys in their pasts, uncertainty in their eyes and invisible wounds in their souls that intrigued her. Generous with her time and loyal to the bone, she befriended those select few with an unflagging commitment and love.' The author never actually shows us any evidence for this. Tiresome.
One of the best modern books (I usually stick to 19th and early 20th century novels) I've read in a long time.