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10 MINUTES 38 SECONDS IN THIS STRANGE WORLD BY ELIF SHAFAK

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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REVIEWS

Helen Freeborn

Set in Istanbul over several decades, this book is more than the sum of its parts and a brilliant concept. Tequila Leila - the central character - is dead, but in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her death, we are taken through her life and meet the people most important to her. Compelling but emotionally draining, the novel asks us to reflect on the circumstances of a woman's life within an oppressive culture, an ancient and rapidly changing city - yet it's a life that could happen anywhere. Sharak's characters are well enough drawn for us to be able to envisage each of them individually and I found it impossible not to mourn Leila and wish her life had been different; thankfully, Sharak offers a more positive ending than I had expected. I find myself returning in my mind to its themes even after finishing the novel - which is surely the mark of a great book?

Nigel Meredith

The tool of using the time between death and brain death, 10 minutes 38 seconds, was an interesting way to follow Tequila Leila’s life from birth to the end. She had a tough life but throughout the whole book there is a sense of personal strength told through her friendships and loyalties to other people. The characters she encountered were living people with a full back history and Leila was the lynchpin showing how she influenced them and where they ended up. Also the evocation of Istanbul was fascinating and drew you in. Like cruising when you visit a place you only get a flavour the port of call although you know that there is so much more to, in this case a city. There is a particular conflict in Istanbul with western traditions against eastern religion, city living versus small town Turkey, social norms with a seamy underbelly. The book states that there are many ‘Istanbuls’ and they sit together in layers creating a unique fusion. I want to go to Istanbul now to soak up the Bazaar, to watch the people going about their daily lives and breathe in the air.

Brenda Mills

The unusual title of this book draws the reader in so they cannot wait to open and read the first page of this equally unusual book. It begins with ‘The End’ so the reader is immediately aware of the fate of the protagonist Leyla Afife Kamile or ‘Tequila Leila', as she became known. The scene is set, and we know from the start that after she became estranged from her family in her home town of Van in Turkey she spent her life as a prostitute in the thriving, busy and exciting city of Instanbul. Shafak sets the scene by the clever way she uses language to create the imagery of how the senses of touch, taste and smell will play an important role in Leila’s life as she remembers her family and five friends in her last minutes. Even if you’ve never been to Turkey or Istanbul you get a real insight into the customs and lifestyle of it’s people at the time. The way religion and tradition spread its arms wide and then pulls them in restricting and ruling the behaviour of the various people whose lives we merely touch upon but who create an impression that lasts much longer than 10 minutes and 38 seconds.

Beverley McWilliam

Leila, a prostitute is found murdered and left in a rubbish bin in Istanbul. Her life story is told in the 10 minutes 38 seconds of the title, the time that although dead she is still aware and remembering key points in her life. This also introduces us to her friends who become important in the latter part of the book. I hadn’t heard of the author before but I was very happy to be reading it. I liked the way Leila’s story was told by milestones in her life, not chronological but with a good flow. It gave some real insights into life in Turkey; as well as Leila’s story there was background on her friends and also attitudes and social history in Istanbul. The concept of remembering for a short time after death was thought provoking, what would any of us remember, what are the most important things in our own lives? It’s a great choice for a book club, it would generate discussions of many subjects and more importantly it was a really enjoyable read.

Shelagh Payne

As we start the book we know what has happened to the main character and l did wonder where it was going from here! Then as l read a few more pages l realised how the plot/story was developing. It has been done very cleverly and informatively with the main character, Leila, doing the storytelling. We learn about her friends and the lives they left and the lives they are living in Istanbul. I learnt a lot about the culture of various countries and how these friends were treated in them which led to their leaving and making new lives in Istanbul. The threads then all come together with pathos, mild humour but an underlying message .... beware of the Bright Lights of Big Cities. I enjoyed this book from the beginning and found it very easy to read as it flowed beautifully.