It wasn’t an easy read.
Although it’s probably impossible, to summarise it in one sentence, I’d say it it’s a 16th century, multi-layered detective story with romantic elements and insight into the protagonists psyche. Eco’s The Name of the Rose in the Ottoman surroundings
The author is able to fill several pages with a protagonist’s stream of thoughts. I admit, sometimes it was difficult to concentrate and actually follow this internal monologue. If it hadn’t been for the romantic elements I would have become disinterested. It’s difficult not to be impressed and envious ! of Orhan Pamuk’s ability to produce such an intelligent, erudite and full of insight novel.
Although I really did enjoy the romantic side and showing the veiled woman’s sexuality. I was actually surprised to realise I never dwelled on that before and never looked at them as possible of having a rewarding sex life. But that’s probably cultural difference and the lack of the subject on the media. The Muslim women and sex topics are usually associated with in terms of violence, rapes and coercion.
The final twist is also very interesting, when the author reveals he’s one of the protagonists – Shekure’s son Orhan. At the very beginning of the novel I had a thought why would he give the boy his own name? and pondered how the Shevket-Orhan relationship resembles the one I recall from Istanbul. Memories and the City – for examples the difference in age between the brothers, their constant fights and strive to draw the mother’s attention.
There is also another layer to the story, except for the murder and love. It shows us the Islamic society in the times of the rising empire. We can make our own parallel to today’s events and notice that people’s mentality did not change that much over the centuries. Visible is also the topic so ever alive in Turkey – the westernisation of the Turkish society, here in a form of Frankish or Venetian masters influence on the Ottoman miniaturist craft.
To sum up, it’s a must read for those who want to understand the Muslim way of life and philosophy better. And for those who enjoy intellectual challenges. They will find, first a mystery to solve and a piece of art playing with literary conventions, narrative styles and inspirations by previous centuries’ masters.
I recommend this review