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3.9 out of 5 stars
14
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 25 March 2014
It started off in an interesting, captivating way, but meeting all the residents of the Bon Bon Palace through lots and lots of detailed description - details which didn't prove to have any point for the story - was just too exhausting. Towards the last when we get to hear something about the narrator and the chapters are shorter and there's action rather than description, it does pick up a little bit and has some good reflections and few good little stories, eg. the sad story of the oldest resident of the building. But still, the read wasn't "worth it" for me. The ending is just random. The story could maybe have been a good short story.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 January 2015
This is the first novel by this author I have read, and I came across it by chance. I will most definitely be looking out for more works by the author, as this book was an absolute delight.
First published in the author’s original Turkish in 2004, the book has now been translated and published in English.

The story reminded me somewhat of ‘The Yacoubian Building’ by the great Egyptian author, Alaa-Al-Aswany. There is the same wry insightfulness into people and their oddities, offered to the reader through the medium that brings the protagonists together, the building where they live and work. Shafak’s work, however, is slightly lighter in tone.

The book opens with the journey of Injustice Pureturk through another hard day’s work, as he heads to a job at the Bonbon Palace at 88 Cabal Street, in Istanbul. He’s about at the end of his tether, but his arrival at the Bonbon Palace seems to trigger a whole new series of events. The narrative then moves to “Before …”; a time before Bonbon Palace existed, where there was a move by the authorities to clear land in the busy city, and where the fate of two cemeteries hinges on the identity of a Saint. And then to “Even Before …” where the Revolution in Russia leads to some unlikely immigrants to Turkey, including Pavel Pavlovich Antipov and his wife Agripina Fyodorovna Antipova. How this all ties together, and what happens in current time (2002 in the narrative) unfolds slowly but surely before the reader. We visit the inhabitants of each of the Flats in Bonbon Palace as they move through their lives; some sad, some funny, all slightly (or more than slightly) eccentric in their ideas, their ways of life, their approaches to the world that they find confronting them outside the walls of Bonbon Palace.

This book is an absolutely delightful treasure; layers of humour, wit, sorrow, love and loss – the whole human condition is laid out before us to discover. The writer has a real talent for deeply insightful writing that offers the truly everyday in an utterly new way. It’s hard to offer more of the narrative without going into spoilers, but I can truly say that this was a rewarding journey of a book, on which I was hooked from the first page to the last. Closing the book, I laughed to myself at the story, and at the twist that the author offers at the end. Truly wonderful.
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on 4 February 2011
In search of an 'exotic' holiday destination not too far from the Europe with which I was familiar, I encouraged my husband to book a few days in Istanbul. We both wanted an insight into the people and culture before travelling: he started on Orhan Pamuk, whereas I began reading the Flea Palace. Shafak is a Turkish writer with a background in psychology, who has lived in the USA and Europe. She writes fluidly, with lyrical descriptions of the characters who live in the Flea Palace (Bonbon palace, an apartment block in the giant, overcrowded city that is modern-day Istanbul). The characters are introduced flat by flat; their personalities, hang-ups, frustrations and idiosyncracies examined with a fond, forgiving and sympathetic eye. The novel digresses into numerous story strands, knitted expertly together as the residents interact daily; in the 'palace' there is a pervasive, mystifying stench, a symbol of the decay all around. Just as you imagine this microcosm of a city will unravel, the pace increases, and I found I could not put the novel down, I wanted so much to find out what happened to all the residents. Our visit to Istanbul was enriched by our prior reading, so much so that I went once again last summer, taking my daughters with me. I ahve since read several novels by Shafak, and enjoyed them all.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 January 2015
This is the first novel by this author I have read, and I came across it by chance. I will most definitely be looking out for more works by the author, as this book was an absolute delight.
First published in the author’s original Turkish in 2004, the book has now been translated and published in English.

The story reminded me somewhat of ‘The Yacoubian Building’ by the great Egyptian author, Alaa-Al-Aswany. There is the same wry insightfulness into people and their oddities, offered to the reader through the medium that brings the protagonists together, the building where they live and work. Shafak’s work, however, is slightly lighter in tone.

The book opens with the journey of Injustice Pureturk through another hard day’s work, as he heads to a job at the Bonbon Palace at 88 Cabal Street, in Istanbul. He’s about at the end of his tether, but his arrival at the Bonbon Palace seems to trigger a whole new series of events. The narrative then moves to “Before …”; a time before Bonbon Palace existed, where there was a move by the authorities to clear land in the busy city, and where the fate of two cemeteries hinges on the identity of a Saint. And then to “Even Before …” where the Revolution in Russia leads to some unlikely immigrants to Turkey, including Pavel Pavlovich Antipov and his wife Agripina Fyodorovna Antipova. How this all ties together, and what happens in current time (2002 in the narrative) unfolds slowly but surely before the reader. We visit the inhabitants of each of the Flats in Bonbon Palace as they move through their lives; some sad, some funny, all slightly (or more than slightly) eccentric in their ideas, their ways of life, their approaches to the world that they find confronting them outside the walls of Bonbon Palace.

This book is an absolutely delightful treasure; layers of humour, wit, sorrow, love and loss – the whole human condition is laid out before us to discover. The writer has a real talent for deeply insightful writing that offers the truly everyday in an utterly new way. It’s hard to offer more of the narrative without going into spoilers, but I can truly say that this was a rewarding journey of a book, on which I was hooked from the first page to the last. Closing the book, I laughed to myself at the story, and at the twist that the author offers at the end. Truly wonderful.
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on 13 November 2009
Having visited Istanbul, I was pleased to get a book that was really entertaining and at the same time showed me insights into a different culture and the past and present of a fascinating place. It uses the Arabian Nights idea of lots of mini-stories within one big plot, and I found all the characters interesting and believable. Plus there were some important ideas to make me think. I loved it.
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on 27 October 2014
Many, many characters, took a while to get into, but enjoyed the convolutions in the end. Not really a bedside book, you need to be able to read a good portion at each sitting to keep up with the parallel stories that are going on. An interesting juxtaposition of old and new Istanbul.
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Disjointed and very detailed without any sight of how the individual stories join up. Almost gave up at 60%but persevered. It got easier to comprehend but no more enjoyable. There was not a single likeable character. When it was finished I felt I had not gained a single thing from reading this book other than the fact that I now know I never want to visit Turkey
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on 16 May 2013
Having recently travelled to Istanbul, I was keen to read this. It's got lots of energy, it's funny, fast and a bit mad, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of interesting characters and this lovely, decrepit Istanbul house. Without giving away spoilers, I felt slightly let down by the ending, however, which is why it only gets four stars, but I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys slightly off-beat reading.
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on 14 December 2015
Truly great story telling and use of imagery and humour
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on 27 October 2008
Rambled on and on. The early part about how the White Russian couple came to own the house/apartment block, and the story of the saints buried in the grounds, was promising, but the main body of the novel just failed to engage. I was glad when I got to the end, and the attempt at a post-modern frame-tale, which explains that the whole thing had been made up by an imprisoned revolutionary, did nothing to foster either enjoyment or interest.
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