on 26 May 2015
An oximoron just inside the title to give us an idea, at once, of the contradictions, the lacerations, the interior struggles which the woman-author of this splendid book “Black milk” published in Italy by
Rizzoli, Elif Shafak, one of the most loved contemporary Turkish authors, will live; among her books we have already appreciated
and reviewed “The bastard of Istanbul” and “The forty doors”.
The Italian subtitle doesn’t exactly correspond to the original English one which gives us more information about the content of the
book and which says “on writing, motherhood and the harem within”.
And we want to start just from this “harem within” to tribute a new standing ovation to Elif Shafak (shafak in Turkish means dawn) for
the originality of the invention of the “Pollicine” (we don’t know their
English name) in the harem…who are these Pollicine? They are some of the various personalities which cohabitate in each of us and to whom the author gives deliciously fanciful names; some of them, in the various phases of our lives, predominate over the other ones making us, from time to time, motherly, intellectual, ambitious, efficient, sexy, religious and so on. It is a very variegated interior harem and until these Pollicine don’t live in a perfect democracy but one of them wants to dominate over the other ones we will always have lacks of balance; Elif Shafak is aware of this and talks about this in her book which makes us smile but, at the same time, reflect on motherhood, on its positive sides but also on the negative ones such as post partum depression, for example, represented by a jinn, a sort of a elf, to which Elif Shafak gives a
name as she does with the Pollicine, depression which she will succeed in defeating after a quite hard struggle.
And to enrich the narration of her personal path toward motherhood and birth (Mrs Shafak has got two children) Elif Shafak inserts brief biographies and her personal reflections on many women-writers of
the past and of the present centuries, either Turkish or belonging to other countries all over the world, deeply studied and analyzed by her, and on their relationship with motherhood.
on 1 April 2016
I've just finished this book, and I'm also just recovering from PPD. This was the perfect book for me, Shafak writes about the multitude of different voices/different selves that jostled for her attention and then fell apart all together when her depression hit. By taking this literally and naming each self, and talking to each one as a character she really brings this concept to life. It's incredibly effective and something I really recognise in myself and other new mums I know too.
She has a dry humour but doesn't laugh off the seriousness of her situation. I actually cried for "Mama Rice Pudding" at one point!
The book is mostly personal, but has chapters throughout describing other prominent female writers and their experiences of motherhood or childlessness, which is fascinating in itself but also reminds the reader she, and Shafak, are not as isolated as they feel but are part of a great tradition of women before them who have wrestled with these questions.
A beautiful, ultimately optimistic book. I've saved a star because I felt the actual experience of postnatal depression was glossed over too quickly, then again perhaps it's an experience too personal to share with any old reader.
Thank you for this book!