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VINE VOICEon 11 October 2017
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
This sweeping story takes us from traditional Kurdish beginnings in rural Turkey in the 1950s, through to life in the east end of London in the 1970s, and onwards to Shrewsbury prison in the 1990s. We know right from the beginning that here has been a so-called honour killing - a woman is dead, a son is in prison. The book makes no bones about the often cruel and misogynistic ways in which some Turkish men treat women, but the females (and a few of the men) in this story are resilient, funny and strong so it is not a depressing read overall.

Elif Shafak writes with sensory details that bring the time and place alive for the reader. She deals with big issues such as gender inequality, conflicts between generations, and immigrant life, but these all naturally become part of a big, panoramic story. Along the way we pick up knowledge about Turkish and Kurdish history, which is so important in understanding modern Turkey with its tensions between religion and secularism, city and country, east and west.There is humour as well as tragedy: some scenes and phrases make you laugh out loud. Above all Shafak is a great storyteller so the book is a real page turner. All the members of my wife's book group enjoyed reading it, with some reservations about the big secret revealed towards the end....... We are looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 September 2013
'My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten, but I could never find the time or the will or the courage to write about it.' The novel's first chapter opens in 1990s London where Esma describes the normal life of a North London mother, taking her twin girls to a birthday party. Later we learn that she will be going to pick up her brother Iskender from Shrewsbury prison and the story of why he is there unfolds gradually throughout the novel.

The next chapter takes us to 1945 and to the birth of Esma's mother and her twin sister. In that description Shafak is able to impart much of the cultural norms of Turkish Kurds without being didactic. Their mother Naze already six daughters and the twin girls are unwanted in a culture where women are unvalued and mothers make little sultans out of their sons. Naze wants to call the twins Bext and Bese, Kurdish for Destiny and Enough. Their father renames them Pembe and Jamila, Pink and Beautiful, though the girls are known by both names. Later, Pembe moves to London with her husband, Adem, and their two children and Jamila remains in Turkey where she becomes a midwife. These multiple narratives are explored throughout the novel as Elif Shafak lays out what happens when old customs are kept in new countries. Shafak is excellent at imparting a sense of time and place and builds the tension that leads to the tragedy of an 'honour' killing. '

'It was all because women were made of the lightest cambric, Naze continued, whereas men were cut of thick, dark fabric. That is how God had tailored the two: one superior to the other. As to why He had done that, it wasn't up to human beings to question ... "

At one point Pembe thinks about how the English take the concept of shame lightly, "When the English were disappointed about something, no matter how ephemeral or inconsequential, they exclaimed, `Oh what a shame!'

Honour sets out its agenda with its title. The idea of the inherent superiority of men and the different standards they can live by are explored thought the novel as is violence of men against women. The multiple narratives work in terms of contrasting the different culture in the Turkish Kurd community and in multicultural London, but Shafak is less successful in inhabiting alll her characters and differentiating between them and it is Iskender who is less convincing than the others. This leaves a sense of emotional distancing from the action and a lack of believability in her characters. However, Elif Shafak has a very readable style and the book is engaging and will carry you through any doubts about characters or plot twist.
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on 19 May 2013
Elif Shafak's Honour hinges around one horrible crime. The nature of this crime itself is revealed within the first few pages, and the rest of the book is spent examining the lives of the people affected and the events that led up to and contributed to the event. It's a story that spans four generations, split between the remote villages of Turkey and the metropolis of 1970's London. When Pembe and Adem leave their home country to build a new life in Britain, their children must find a way to mesh new traditions with the old, to speak two languages and to adapt the cultural norms of their heritage to new situations.

In Honour, Elif Shafak examines how gender, history and expectations combine to have a powerful impact on our behaviour and our future actions. It's also fair to say that this book is an exploration of immigrant culture. It looks in detail at the relationships between parents and their children and how a rich cultural history is blended with new experiences.

I actually read this book while I was in Turkey, and the sections set in the villages really came to life for me. However, it felt as though it was lacking in the crucial emotional connection to the central characters. The narrative style, which tends to jump around between different times and different viewpoints, also made the novel quite hard to follow. It also meant that certain events were revealed out of sequence, taking away some of the tension from the main plotline.

Honour does a great job of setting out facts and events and of creating a very real and powerful backdrop, but at no point does the author really use her position to give an opinion on the twin cultures that she's describing. It's up to us as readers to make the observations for ourselves. In doing so, I think the author misses out on an opportunity to get across what has the potential to be a very powerful statement.
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on 15 November 2014
A truly gifted writer; I am amazed by this author-she has a real gift for story-telling-. Her integrity and philosophy seeps into your soul as you read. Beautifull thought-provoking writing. Makes one believe in the magic of creativity. Deals with the cruel concept of ' honour'-always the burden of women-. Marvellous-contemporary- human.
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on 6 August 2017
I bought this book after listening to the author on desert island discs. I enjoy books that make you feel you are living in a different country and culture but i found the story does not flow and I gave up on it. Hate doing that with a book but I did not enjoy the first 25%.
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on 24 June 2013
I think it gives you a good insight of how different cultures are and their believes mixed with expectations. How religion and believes can determine your life or make a huge part of the course and process of it. It's a very touching story as sadly this things happen in real life.
Also it's very well written in a fast tempo and modern style.
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on 12 December 2014
Outstanding story and plot, this book shows the author's understanding of the various cultures and sub-cultures of the nations and times referred to. Only lost 1 star because the author used that confusing fad of jumping back and forward in time and place! But overall I can see why the book is so acclaimed.
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on 20 April 2013
Although the subject matter might put people off, the characters are all believable and the storyline is great. The author really leads you through the events that lead up to the death of the character and although there are some coincidences to ensure that the story flows that doesn't detract from the book. All the characters are likeable even if you can't understand their motivation or feelings. Would recommend especially for a book club because its an easy read but with an interesting subject matter there would be a lot to discuss
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on 13 December 2016
I enjoyed the book, I don't know if I would read another from the same author. I have passed it on to my sister, will see what she thinks.!!!
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on 17 February 2013
This book is a reflection of the power of culture, the place of the sexes within a culture, their relationships with their families and with each other. This story is a sad tale with just some glimmers of hope for its characters, which over the generations, finally show signs of becoming reality. It is a gripping, absorbing tale, which once or twice lapses into unnecessary detail, hence the 4 star rating rather than a 5. However, this should not put you off, it is easy enough to skim through these passages and it is well worth it to do so.
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