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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into the Obsessive Love of Things
Orhan Pamuk,
The Museum of Innocence

It is both easy and difficult to talk about this intriguing novel by the recent Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature - a prize of course awarded for lifetime achievement rather than for a particular book. The easy part is to tell the plot, which usually in my experience takes up at least half of a review. The...
Published 21 months ago by Mr. D. James

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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Musuem of Innocence.
Like in many books by Orhan Pamuk, the real shining star of this novel is Istanbul. The story charts the development of the city's social mores and customs from an Eastern-dominated Conservatism to a much more Western system of values and conceits. Thus such concepts as pre-marital sex, female independence and free-market capitalism are among the major themes of the...
Published on 3 May 2010 by TomCat


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into the Obsessive Love of Things, 11 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Museum of Innocence (Paperback)
Orhan Pamuk,
The Museum of Innocence

It is both easy and difficult to talk about this intriguing novel by the recent Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature - a prize of course awarded for lifetime achievement rather than for a particular book. The easy part is to tell the plot, which usually in my experience takes up at least half of a review. The difficult part is to convey the quality of one's reading experience. So, to the plot, briefly:

Kemal, who tells the story - later we discover his story is ghost-written by a friend - is a wealthy businessman who falls in love with a poor shopgirl, one who has recently come third in a beauty contest. Unfortunately, he is engaged to an aristocratic girl to whom marriage for familial and business reasons would be more suitable. So far, so trite, but this is not Jane Austen all over again; this is romance, writ large to the nth degree. For Kemal is an obsessive; he not only cannot detach himself from Füsan the shopgirl, but can think of nothing else. All through the period of his engagement and, later, his marriage to Sibel, Kemal collects memorabilia associated with his beloved. This collection of sacred relics begins with a lost ear-ring and ends with a museum.

What is remarkable about this everyday story of an infatuated lover is the revelation of an interior world, where recalled scenes and images are as life-sustaining as the memorabilia he treasures. Cigarette butts with Füsan's lipstick on and stolen kitchen equipment are but two of the thousands of his objets d'art. Each item brings back a time and place where he loved and suffered in the past. He polishes them or kisses them in his mother's apartment where he sets up his shrine. His fling with Füsan took but a short time, but it remains with him for life. Of course, he occasionally asks himself what good this `love' does him or anyone else. The answer is not a scrap - the reverse in fact. But he can't help himself; the drug will never leave his system, and if it did do so by a miracle, the reader feels the poor man would not survive.

The claustrophobic setting is Istanbul in the 1970s and beyond. The streets are narrow and crowded and the heat suffocating. Kemal names every street along which he has passed, dreaming of the beloved or remembering his later suffering. He presents the reader with a map, highlighting important features, and, to complete his encyclopaedia of folly he appends to a 700+ page novel a paginated index of all the characters mentioned.

What I loved most about this Proustian novel was the privileged view I was given of another consciousness, a madman one might say, a self-destructive obsessive, one who sacrifices everything for a dream, a no doubt selfish illusion about a fairly unexceptional girl. Except that we are made to realise that nobody is unexceptional, that the other characters whom Kemal damages are alive and immortalised in the book, just as his treasures are enshrined in his museum. We feel sympathy for them, even those who are hostile to him.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Musuem of Innocence., 3 May 2010
By 
TomCat (Cardiff, Wales.) - See all my reviews
Like in many books by Orhan Pamuk, the real shining star of this novel is Istanbul. The story charts the development of the city's social mores and customs from an Eastern-dominated Conservatism to a much more Western system of values and conceits. Thus such concepts as pre-marital sex, female independence and free-market capitalism are among the major themes of the novel.

It's a great shame, then, that the actual plot of the book falls far short of being the magnum-opus of love and life that the author is attempting.

Kemal, the novel's protagonist, spends the majority of his life in love with Fusun; a `beautiful shop girl' and distant relation. In an attempt to record and preserve their relationship, he begins to hoard inanimate objects which, in one way or another, are relevant to his and Fusun's story - this collection being the titular `Museum of Innocence'.

Pamuk's handling of this rather twee idea is charming at first, but soon becomes so repetitive that the theme of collecting almost descends into farce. Kemal attributes the same emotional weight and significance to every item of Fusun's that he steals. While it is understandable that Kemal would get upset, even distraught, as he contemplates his absent lover's most prized items of jewellery, seeing him cry over her half-eaten food and cigarette stubs in the same way is just taking the concept too far.

In fact, much of the novel's failings come from Pamuk over-reaching himself. Many of his metaphors are extended beyond the point at which they're enlightening (such as an overly long and gratuitous description of how love can be a real, physical pain), and his characters just aren't as complex as the narrator would have us believe. Fusun, the object of love in the novel, comes across as a stroppy and juvenile woman, stuck in a perpetual adolescence. Similarly, Kemal's optimism and chirpy out-look is at odds with his supposed heart-ache and despair.

The first half of the novel is the best - but in a book of this length, that leaves a lot to be desired in the overly repetitive and ambling second half.

Unfortunately, `The Museum of Innocence' fails at as many things as it succeeds. A beautiful and fascinating social history of Istanbul is given somewhat of a back-seat to a bland and uninspiring love story. Nothing ever seems at stake in this novel - there is no real sense of risk. The reasons why Fusun and Kemal don't just get-it-together are largely nonsensical, given the supposed level of passion involved.

The predictable ending of the book is somewhat more engaging that the preceding three or four hundred pages, but again the author is attempting too much. The reasoning behind Fusun's final act isn't explored at all, and the novel finishes with that awful modern-cliché of inter-textual revelation a-la `Atonement'. I was left disappointed, and feeling that this novel could have been so much more, if only Pamuk had held back with certain aspects, and pushed forward with others.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obsession, 20 May 2011
This review is from: The Museum of Innocence (Paperback)
The Museum Of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk presents what might appear to be a daunting challenge. It runs to more than 500 pages and a flick through the text reveals scant use of dialogue. It all looks very dense. There is also the added challenge of knowing that the novel is set in an unfamiliar cultural landscape, underpinned by assumptions we may not share, assumptions that we may not even recognise.

But no reader need be daunted. I read it - and even re-read some sections - in less than two days. Rarely have I been drawn by a writer inside a character in the way that Orhan Pamuk invited me to become Kemal Bey. The book is a perfect example of a work that tells you nothing, but takes you all the way there.

Kemal is a rich young man at the start of the book's recollected but largely linear story. It is 1975. Kemal has returned from business school in the USA and has taken up a perhaps assured position in Satsat, literally Sell-Sell, his family's distribution and export company. It's a successful company, making money hand over fist, and provides its owners with both status and wealth. Kemal is part of Istanbul's, even Turkey's elite, a rich man even among the rich. He can have what he wants. His life is on a flat track in the fast lane from the start. He is close to engagement and marriage to Sibel, a beautiful woman he loves.

And then one day Kemal visits a shop to buy his girlfriend a present. He recognises the girl who serves him as the daughter of a distant relation, a woman he used to call Aunt Nesibe. There was no direct blood tie, perhaps, but ties with this poorer branch of the family were stronger when Kemal was young. Hence he remembers the shop girl who serves him as Füsun, Aunt Nesibe's daughter. She is just 18, has bleached hair in the modern style and promises an imminent and full bloom of womanhood. Kemal is transfixed and from that moment on his life is changed.

The Museum Of Innocence - at least in part - is a novel about obsession. Kemal wants to possess, to own every aspect of Füsun. He yearns for her body - that might be taken for granted - but he also wants to absorb her, in some ways to become part of her. For him she is a Madonna, a sex object, a future wife, an analyst, a support and a superstar all in one slight, beautiful frame. He changes every aspect of his life so that it fits the shape she projects merely so that he can metaphorically and literally wrap himself around her. In one of their encounters, she loses a monogrammed earring. Kemal finds it, but doesn't return it. And so this earring becomes the first of many things associated with Füsun that Kemal collects. Eventually these thousands of artefacts become the exhibits in his museum dedicated to her, Kemal's museum of innocence.

But Orham Pamuk's writing is never merely one-layered. In The Museum of Innocence he takes us on a tour of Istanbul's high society and culture. We experience - not just observe - clashes of culture, tradition versus modernity, family versus individuality, responsibility versus interest. Events that made Turkish history of the period affect everyone's lives. Political and economic change go hand in hand, though sometimes the hands are fists.

We meet Zaim, for instance, whose company makes Meltem, Turkey's favourite domestically-made soft drink. But as the years pass, can his brand compete with Coke and Pepsi? And if so, what tactic should it employ to find its market? Should it use Western advertising methods? Kemal also meets Feridun, a budding film director who, via various mechanisms eventually persuades Kemal to finance a film company as a joint venture. Lemon Film's first offering is hammered by the urban critics, but poor communities throughout Anatolia can identify with its traditional message and so it becomes a capitalist hit. Kemal has success is almost every aspect of his life but not, it seems, in love, a subject he confines to his museum. He becomes, incidentally, a compulsive museum visitor!

A review of The Museum Of Innocence cannot begin to offer a flavour of the entire book. Its canvas is too broad, its achievement too great, its success too complete. Obsession is the key word, however, and Orhan Pamuk manages to draw the willing reader into Kemal's psyche, so that his tunnel vision becomes an obsession for the reader. We see his world through his eyes, and thus feel what he feels. Perhaps we even empathise. Looking back, The Museum Of Innocence, like life itself, is not such a long journey after all.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelming, 2 Jan 2010
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This is my 3rd Pamuk book and it leaves me overwhelmed. It is astonishing in revealing the tiny details that make up our lives, overwhelming in it's description of that emotion that many of us will recognise. I have never been to Istanbul but I think I have now, I think I understand why someone would be crazy enough to be obsessed by a love for his entire life, to collect every object related to that love, to wonder if it's possible for any of us to lead happy lives, or whether we would even recognise it when happiness had arrived, or that we had let it slip us by? That is the question 30 year old Kemal o asks himself as the novel starts. I started reading this on xmas day and couldn't stop until i finished it today.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Museum of Obsession, actually, 24 Nov 2010
By 
D. Mason (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Museum of Innocence (Paperback)
This is an over-long tale of obsession, partially redeemed by Istanbul's evocative place names, which occur liberally throughout the text, lending it an exotic flavour. Superficially, it is about a man who falls in love with a beautiful shop assistant. Unfortunately, although she reciprocates, it is a flawed kind of love; it is the love of the addict for his drug, selfish and self destructive, and may cause him to lose everything, if he does not find salvation from somewhere. Transformed by his obsession, his life is going nowhere, slowly; and the slowness of the narrative seems to emphasise this.

The book has plenty to say about the cultural tension between permissiveness and traditional values in Istanbul's middle classes. These influence the characters' behaviour in no small way. From that point of view it is interesting and insightful; but ultimately it is just too long. This book may appeal to you if you are interested in Istanbul, or in clashes between cultures, or in the dangers of unhealthy obsessions. Avoid it if you dislike slow moving, introspective novels.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional storytelling, 13 Jan 2011
Referring to previous reviews raining the point of Kamal's obsession/love being unbelievable and the motives of Fusun's final act being unexplored: For me this wonderfully detailed and sensitive novel is largely about the theme of forgiveness and punishment, and our ability to overcome - or not - the wounds inflicted upon us by others.

Yes it's a long and occasionally difficult read, but it is the unspoken motivations behind the main players' actions that kept me spellbound.

And yes, Istanbul is revealed with an intimacy and passion that brings the city to life.

A great read, in a brilliant translation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and Obsession in 70s Istanbul, 2 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Museum of Innocence (Paperback)
I picked this up in a charity shop (with apologies to the author) having recently visited and fallen in-love with Istanbul. I was a bit daunted, both by the book's size and by Pamuk's reputation, but I loved this. It's a complex tale of love, obsession, class and morals, it's funny, tragic, strange and at times frustrating, but I just went with it and found it richly rewarding. From page one you know it's not going to end well, but actually, when you finally get there, while by no means a typical happy ending, it's strangely uplifting. After this I started reading one of the big, multiple award-winning, must-read books of 2013, and after about 20% on my Kindle, I found myself wishing I was still reading The Museum of Innocence. Weeks on and I'm still thinking about this book. Probably not for everyone, but I loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Synopsis (Spoiler Alert! read it and save yourself the bother), 19 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Museum of Innocence (Paperback)
After once reviewing Pamuk's 'My Name is Red' as my book of the decade I feel slightly unfaithful declaring this one to be his runt. The opening chapters shine light on 1970's Istanbul in a way Eugenides' 'Middlesex' scoops you into a hyper real evocation of Ford era Detroit. All very promising. Then the novel quickly nosedives into the literary equivalent of a nasal drip and for at least nine tenth's of it I trudged through what is essentially Kemal Bey's wimpy whinging monologue. To save you the bother it goes like this for four hundred pages... 'Oh the pain the heartache the pain of love unrequited. Oh it's worse than the pain of death and worse than the pain of life. This cigarette butt reminds me of her...oh the pain and this cigarette butt reminds me of her too..oh the pain. (He has over 4000 cigarette butts and spends a chapter calculating the average of how many a day he must have collected despite the pain - he also devotes a whole chapter to the areas of his body where he feels pain) There are two striking things about this novel. We never get to know what he looks like, and secondly, in a lolita-esque manner the cause of his pain who is in her twenties rarely gets to speak or be heard so we have no idea why she does what she does or what she is thinking (we do however know what her back, breasts, buttocks, hair and fingernails look like - painfully perfect apparently). It's because he's in so much pain he forgets to tell the details that make a book come alive in the minds eye of the reader. Irritatingly Pamuk himself becomes a character in the book - a very misjudged device that only heightens the solipsism and self absorption in the novel. How bad was it really? I, an avid reader, was in Iran for one month with no internet access, only government endorsed religious propaganda on the T.V and this was the only book in English I could find. Picking it up to read it was like picking scraps of food from a bin and I only did so in the hope somebody would die or kill..or even blink only to toss it away quickly. I finished it simply to spite the author and because the hotel Quran was in Farsi!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth the effort, 13 Jun 2013
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A wonderfully evocative book but I think it gets a bit bogged down in the middle - rather like the narrator. The end is very moving.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but flawed, 10 Jun 2013
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Brilliant and compulsive reading for the first third, so much so that I became quite obsessed by the book. But the second and final sections are too drawn up, mawkish and even embarrassing. Would have improved with some good editing.
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The Museum of Innocence
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk (Paperback - 2 Sep 2010)
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