10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World
An intensely powerful new novel from the best-selling author of The Bastard of Istanbul and Honour'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away...'For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World Details

Title10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 6th, 2019
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780241293867
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World Review

  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this book a few days ago....( haven’t read any reviews yet)....and it’s unusual for me to wait 3 days before writing a review. Have you eve felt you have so much to say - you don’t know whet to begin? Ha...perhaps there’s a club for people like us? It’s a fantastic discussion book!!!Well, I’m on vacation - aware of holiday-distractions - but this is a book I’d personally love to engage with others to discuss. Perhaps if I bang my head against the wall - the right words at the right ti I finished this book a few days ago....( haven’t read any reviews yet)....and it’s unusual for me to wait 3 days before writing a review. Have you eve felt you have so much to say - you don’t know whet to begin? Ha...perhaps there’s a club for people like us? It’s a fantastic discussion book!!!Well, I’m on vacation - aware of holiday-distractions - but this is a book I’d personally love to engage with others to discuss. Perhaps if I bang my head against the wall - the right words at the right time would flow out of me....ha.... not so sure. But this is a TERRIFIC NOVEL with VERY CREATIVE writing. Great styling. .... it has me still thinking about it!!! For starters - Elif Shafak - the Turkish novelist - who lives in London today - an advocate of women’s equality and freedom - is becoming one of my favorite female novelist. A few months ago I read that the Turkish government launched investigations into writers of fiction- including Elif Shafak for writing about sexual violence in turkey.... threatening free speech. So? I can’t help but wonder what the Turkish government thinks of this book. Is this book controversial- too? I think perhaps so. But... it’s a significant novel - filled with facts and fiction — vibrantly imagined.... and keeps the reader just a little off balance until the end. At which point .... I just said ‘Wow’ to myself. We take a journey with a dying prostitute- Tequila Leila - ( a murdered - narrator who is lying in a rubbish bin)... who had lived on the streets in Istanbul where they harbored the oldest licensed brothels. Throughout the novel are reoccurring themes about women’s right and political stiflings. The crafting of storytelling is very unique. “Two minutes after her heart had stopped beating, Leila’s mind recalled two contrasting tastes: lemon and sugar”. Leila saw herself as a six-year old child- an only child... lonely, restless, Always a little distracted. Her biological mother- Binnaz,- was one of nine siblings..... grew up in a poor village- and was often reminded by her husband, Haroun, that she came from nothing. All the women were made to feel like nothing from Haroun. Leila had a complicated childhood and family....with two mothers...( as if that wasn’t complicated enough), her father - Haroun/ Baba felt the responsibilities of marriage, sex, and fatherhood was all too complicated. He wanted to just be done with it all.....especially after a younger brother, Tarkan, was born with Down syndrome. Leila was 7 years of age when Tarkan was born. Baba, disappointed and angry to have a son with Down syndrome, he took his frustrations out on Leila. Leila grows up - leaves home - bolts from home - hoping Istanbul will fulfill her dreams of a better life. But.... it wasn’t...The brutal realities & cruelties reveal themselves through the background and help from five of Leila’s close friends. The five friends have their background stories too. “Three minutes had passed since Leila’s heart had stopped, and now she remembered cardamom coffee. A taste for ever associated in her mind with the street of brothels in Istanbul”. “Four minutes after her heart had stopped beating, a fleeting memory surfaced in Leila’s mind, bringing with it I smell and taste of watermelon”. “Five minutes after her heart had stopped beating, Leila we called her brothers birth. A memory that carries with it the taste and smell of spiced goat stew - cumin, fennel, seeds, cloves, onions, tomatoes, tail fat, and goat’s meat”. “Six minutes after her heart had stopped beating, Leila pulled from her archive the smell of a wood burning stove. “Seven minutes ....As Leila’s brain fought on, she remembered the taste of soil-dry chalky, bitter”. “Eight minutes had gone by, and the next memory that Leila pulled from her archive was the smell of sulphuric acid”. “Nine minutes...The taste of chocolate bonbons with surprise fillings inside — caramel, cherry paste, hazelnut praline...”.“Ten minutes....As time ticked away, Leila’s mind happily we collected the taste of her favorite street food: deep fried mussels- flour, egg yolks, bicarbonate of soda, pepper, salt, and mussels fresh from the Black Sea”. “Ten minutes Twenty Seconds....In the final seconds before her brain completely shut down, Leila remembered a wedding cake-thee tired, all white, layered with buttercream icing”. “Ten minutes and Thirty Seconds...In the final seconds before her brain surrendered, Tequila Leila recalled The taste of a single malt whiskey. It was the last thing that had passed her lips and the night she died”. The final scene is powerful .....Elif Shafak is a phenomenal storyteller. This isn’t a book one forgets!I had one small problem - which I’m sure will get corrected. My early copy of the ebook had many Kindle-typing mis-spelled words - several were hard to figure out what they were. However... this novel is pulsing with thought & life .....narrated by an extraordinary dying protagonist. Thank You Netgalley, Bloomsbury Publishing, and the wonderful Elif Shafak
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is all that remains in the life of Tequila Leila, a sex worker who has been murdered, her body unceremoniously dumped in a wheelie bin in Istanbul. As her brain shuts down, Leila recalls her life in its entirety. These recollections – covering one woman’s life from birth to death, the family who disowned her and the friends who came to be her greatest support, against a backdrop of key moments in Turkish history – form Part One: The Mind. In Part Two 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is all that remains in the life of Tequila Leila, a sex worker who has been murdered, her body unceremoniously dumped in a wheelie bin in Istanbul. As her brain shuts down, Leila recalls her life in its entirety. These recollections – covering one woman’s life from birth to death, the family who disowned her and the friends who came to be her greatest support, against a backdrop of key moments in Turkish history – form Part One: The Mind. In Part Two: The Body, those friends try desperately to obtain a decent burial for Leila, whose corpse the authorities refuse to release to anyone who is not a relation.And right there, in that two-part structure is something startlingly radical: Leila is both a mind AND a body, a fully rounded woman with four decades of lived experience AND a cadaver on a medical examiner’s table. Her death is not where the story ends or (chronologically) where it begins. Her grisly murder is not an outrage to be avenged, nor a puzzle to be solved – there is no brilliant/jaded/antisocial detective – it is simply a tragedy. A lurid death of the type so common in fiction (and upon which a whole genre has been built) – a murdered whore stuffed into a bin – but here the victim is humanised, centred, she is no plot device in someone else’s story.It might not sound like a big deal, but I tell you at the start of Part Two I had a physical reaction to seeing Leila, the woman who I had just got to know so well, lying on an ME’s table, no longer Leila, just ‘the body’. And yet SO many stories, in fiction and in film, start there. With a victim who is just a body, just a plot device.This is not a perfect novel by any stretch. Leila’s life story is compelling, but not remarkably so; Shafak’s prose style is lush and sensual, but also sentimental. Two consecutive chapters open with almost identical lines, which felt slightly lazy. Leila’s ‘found family’ of misfits are drawn with broad brushstrokes and feel more like ‘types’ than real people and their farcical efforts in Part Two are a bit slapsticky (Part Two is overall weaker than Part One).But along with the mawkishness and melodrama there is charm and wisdom and beauty and compassion. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is a novel that beguiles and seduces despite its flaws.
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  • Nadia
    January 1, 1970
    Pleased to see this made the Booker Prize 2019 longlist!Elif Shafak is a bestselling novelist known for her stories of strong female characters, immigrants and minorities. She follows this trend in her latest novel '10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World' depicting a story of Leila. Leila, known as Tequila Leila, is a prostitute in Istanbul who is killed at the start of the book and her body ends up in a rubbish dump. After being physically dead, Leila's brain remains active for another Pleased to see this made the Booker Prize 2019 longlist!Elif Shafak is a bestselling novelist known for her stories of strong female characters, immigrants and minorities. She follows this trend in her latest novel '10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World' depicting a story of Leila. Leila, known as Tequila Leila, is a prostitute in Istanbul who is killed at the start of the book and her body ends up in a rubbish dump. After being physically dead, Leila's brain remains active for another 10 minutes and 38 seconds, during which Leila's memories surge forth bringing back significant moments of her life and more importantly, stories of her 5 close friends she met at key stages in her life. Leila's first memory is dedicated to her own birth in 1947, when she was born to a family of one husband and two wives. After years of being childless, the father of the family decides to give Leila to his first wife, even though it's the second wife who gave birth to Leila. Leila's birthmother never truly recovers from the loss of her baby and reveals the truth to Leila some years later. While loved by her family, Leila's upbringing is strict with little freedom. Desperate to escape the life and marriage that was arranged for her, Leila runs away to Istanbul to start a new life. I enjoy reading books set in Turkey and Middle East drawing on the local culture and traditions so different from my own. This book was no exeption. It's beautifully written with a vivid depiction of Istanbul and some of the historical events such as the massacre in Istanbul on International Workers' Day in 1977. Whilst I enjoyed Leila's story, I did feel there could have been a bit more to it. Leila's five friends were a unique and interesting bunch of characters with their own lifestories to tell and I wished we knew more about them.Many thanks to Penguin Books (UK) for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Nat K
    January 1, 1970
    "To the women of Istanbul, and the city of Istanbul, which is, and has always been, a she-city"I love that this is Elif Shafak's dedication for her book. It is oh-so-apt.Many, many reviewers have spoken of the significance of the book's title both in depth & eloquently. So I'll not re-visit its' significance.What I will say is reading this was extremely emotive. A squeeze to the heart.This is Leila's story. And one that you should read. She recounts memories of her life, from her birth, to a "To the women of Istanbul, and the city of Istanbul, which is, and has always been, a she-city"I love that this is Elif Shafak's dedication for her book. It is oh-so-apt.Many, many reviewers have spoken of the significance of the book's title both in depth & eloquently. So I'll not re-visit its' significance.What I will say is reading this was extremely emotive. A squeeze to the heart.This is Leila's story. And one that you should read. She recounts memories of her life, from her birth, to a young child, to an adult, to her final breath. Many of them long forgotten. Many of them best forgotten.My heart cried out for the injustices suffered by her and so many women, both in the past as well as the present. Undoubtedly in the future too. Though I'm upset not only for the women, but for all people who are abused, displaced, judged, held back, hurting, ignored... the list is endless. All because they do not fit into the confined parameters of a patriarchal society. Or one marred by religious zealotry.This story brings into sharp focus all these people and their stories. In a wondrous blend of the modern, changing world versus traditional, sometimes superstitious practices.The underlying beauty in this book is friendship, a theme which comes across bold & strong. As I've read so many times in the past week (synchronicity?) "family you are born with, friends are family you choose". Or something along those lines. Which crossed my mind repeatedly while reading Leila's story. For her, this is so true.We hear the backstories of Leila's dearest friends, each of them "...one of the five." who become her new family in ".... Istanbul, the city where all the discontented and all the dreamers eventually ended up."Hollywood Humeyra, Jameelah, Nostalgia Nalan, Sabotage Sinan & Zaynab122 display an intense loyalty to Leila which is a joy to behold. What they do for her after her death is both fierce & brave."Leila did not think one could expect to have more than five friends. Just one was a stroke of luck.""She had often thought five was a special number.""If friendship meant rituals, they had them by the truckload."" 'You are not family.''We were closer to her than family...' ""Leila had friends. Lifelong, loyal, loving friends. She might not have had much else, but this she surely had."I cannot even begin to express how reading about the "Cemetery of the Companionless" made me feel.Sensual writing abounds. You can smell the scents of spices, cardamom, lemon. You can feel the heat from the sky. The evening breeze on your neck. The lights of the city at night. The sizzle of the food vendor's grill. See the sun reflecting off the harbour. Hear the seagulls careening. The writing is so wonderfully descriptive. It was like I could step into the pages and be there.Don't think from my review that this is a depressing story. Far from it. I know it could be viewed that way. Yes, there is incredible sadness. But there is also hope. And friendship. And love. For me this book re-affirms how very special life it. What it means to be alive. How we can try to make changes and make the world more inclusive. And most importantly to (hopefully) be able to share your life with those who are special and mean something to you.The ending, oh the ending!"Free at last."An absolute wonder from Elif Shafak. 5✩✩✩✩✩ plus.This was an unofficial buddy read (*waves*) with the extremely well- read-book-fiend Collin. He is a Man Booker Prize 2019 long-list-reading machine. #TeamCollin. Please check out his utterly fab review at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2019 *** Shortlisted for the Man Booker. SO pleased! *** "After all, boundaries of the mind mean nothing for women who continue to sing songs of freedom under the moonlight..."🌛 Amen to that Sister 🌜⭐⭐⭐ Extra stars for there being a cat by the name of Mr Chaplin. A coal black, jade eyed, deaf sweetheart. Whose cat mother Leila rescued. Yet another being that she took under her wing.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019 This riveting tale has two protagonists: The women of Turkey and the city of Istanbul. Right at the beginning, we meet Leila, a prostitute who was attacked and then left to die in a metal rubbish bin on the outskirts of the city. The title-giving 10 minutes and 38 seconds are the time span in which her brain slowly shuts down, one last time re-collecting her life in numerous flashbacks - these vignettes make up the first half of the novel (and in the con Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019 This riveting tale has two protagonists: The women of Turkey and the city of Istanbul. Right at the beginning, we meet Leila, a prostitute who was attacked and then left to die in a metal rubbish bin on the outskirts of the city. The title-giving 10 minutes and 38 seconds are the time span in which her brain slowly shuts down, one last time re-collecting her life in numerous flashbacks - these vignettes make up the first half of the novel (and in the context of the Booker are reminiscient of Mike McCormack's Solar Bones from 2017). Leila's memories are connected to the people she cherished most: D/Ali, an artist, communist activist and the love of her life, and her five best friends: Sinan, with whom she grew up; Nalan, a trans woman who ran away from her family in Anatolia; Jameelah, a victim of human trafficking from Somalia; Zaynab, a Lebanese refugee with severe health issues; and Humeyra who was born in Mesopotamia and fled an abusive marriage. Leila herself left the city of Van, where she was born in 1947, running away from sexual abuse and the threat of a forced marriage. All of these characters end up in Istanbul, and their stories are entangled with Turkish history and the history of the city. Istanbul, melting pot and moloch, the "liquid city" where "everything was constantly shifting and dissolving", a city haunted by the past: "In Istanbul it was the living who were the temporary occupants, the unbidden guests, here today and gone tomorrow, and deep down everyone knew it." Shafak's novel touches upon topics like violence against women and minorites, patriarchal structures, religious indoctrination and oppression (but also religion as a source of strength), discrimination against queer and trans people, migration, social inequality, corruption, police brutality, and political turmoil like the violent protests against the Sixth Fleet in 1969 and the massacre on International Workers' Day in 1977. It is equally true that in 1990, when Leila is murdered, there was an increasing number of crimes against sex workers in Istanbul. But this is also book about friendship and solidarity between people who are very different. In the second part of the novel, the five friends try to give Leila, who was not claimed by her family and thus brought to the Cemetery of the Companionless (a real place), a proper burial in order to honor their friend and to say good-bye: Leila might not have been what society expected of her, but she was loved. The short, final section, describes this unusual burial from the perspective of the corpse, and you will be surprised how beautiful it is. At one point in the book, Leila describes her own memory as a graveyard, and it is astounding how Shafak manages to merge and mirror her human characters with the character that is Istanbul, the city of the dead, "a city prophesied to remain unconquered until the end of the world. For in the distance, the Bosphorus whirled, mixing saltwater with freshwater as easily as it mixed reality and dream." A beautiful, moving book, that manages to talk about a specific subject, but also the human condition as such: "Istanbul was an illusion. (...) In truth, there was no Istanbul."
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  • Joanne Harris
    January 1, 1970
    An extraordinary novel: tender, sensual, compassionate, inclusive and steeped in atmosphere and detail, this is a love letter to Istanbul, to tolerance, to friendship. Read it now.
  • Collin
    January 1, 1970
    LONGLISTED (and hopefully shortlisted) FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE.Leila knows she is dead. Not from the fact that her body is lying in a waste bin, but from the facts that her heart is no longer beating, and her breathing has stopped. Her brain however is still, “brimming with life”.In life Leila had been a prostitute. Tequila Leila was the name she had given herself. She was well known to the authorities and knew that they would have no trouble identifying her body once the sun came up and it wa LONGLISTED (and hopefully shortlisted) FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE.Leila knows she is dead. Not from the fact that her body is lying in a waste bin, but from the facts that her heart is no longer beating, and her breathing has stopped. Her brain however is still, “brimming with life”.In life Leila had been a prostitute. Tequila Leila was the name she had given herself. She was well known to the authorities and knew that they would have no trouble identifying her body once the sun came up and it was discovered. Leila has no idea how long her brain will continue to function before it follows the rest of her organs and dies. However, it seems that as Leila comes closer to losing actual conciseness, her brain’s activity is heightened and memories of her life and past suddenly start streaming in. A minute in this state of mind can seem to last a lifetime and Leila finds herself remembering the smell, the feel of objects that lead her to vital memories from her life. Most of these memories are of her small number of closest friends. The old cliché that your life flashes before your eyes as you die seems to be true.This novel is divided into three parts. With the first part, each chapter is a minute of memories, or a memory of one of Leila’s friends. The perspective changes constantly throughout these chapters switching to help the narrative. Through these memories the reader can start to construct Leila’s life, and how she has come to this ignominious end. During this reconstruction, you start to wonder do instants or circumstances in a life alter that life’s path or send it off on a different tangent, or is everything preordained, unchangeable, regardless the events that the life encounters. Would Leila’s life have been different if her father had not been so fanatically religious, closing off, denying Leila freedoms that most of us take for granted. Is it her father’s intolerance for the western world and religion that moulded Leila into the woman she became? What chance did Leila have as a young girl locked into and inescapable draconian way of life? Sexually abused by her Uncle, forced to marry the Uncle’s son. Leila has one option to escape this slowly closing trap. She runs away, leaving the family behind.The second part of the novel is devoted to Leila’s five grieving friends who are determined to remove Leila’s body from the Cemetery of the Companionless. A Cemetery for the unwanted, the unknown, the unloved. A cemetery where there are no headstones just a piece of wood or tin with a number.Leila’s friends know the difficulty and risks of digging up their friends body and yet they all proceed with the plan, displaying the power and love of true friendship and how powerful a force it can be, often stronger than blood.Shafak turns this part of the novel, paradoxically, considering the situation and location, into a comedic charade, which is hilarious as the five friends argue and fight with each other while trying to find Leila’s gravesite. The third part of the book, well, you will have to read it and find out.I must say that I adore the metaphorical writing style that Shafak has used. This novel is a beautiful read, “Burdened with these suspicions, she moved around the house, around her bedroom, around her own head, like an uninvited guest.”“Unspoken words ran between the women of this town, like washing lines strung between houses.”Or my favourite, “Restless and bouncy, and always a little bit distracted, she reeled through the days, a chess piece that had rolled on to the floor, consigned to building complex games for one.”I feel I would have loved this novel, even if the narrative had been terrible, boring or ridiculous. The strength of the writing is tremendous. This novel does an incredible job pointing out the polar differences between the life of a young girl brought up in the east, under a religious zealot of a father, filling her young impressionable mind with dogma, and a young girl living in the west, growing up with opportunities that Leila could not even dream of, would not even be aware of their existence. For a young woman, this way of life is incredibly unfair and unjust. Sometimes fiction can teach us just as much as non-fiction, sometimes more. This is an incredible novel. The whole idea of the protagonist being dead at the beginning of the book and reliving their life through the memories of a slowly dying brain is just so original and works to such great effect. This novel also shines a light on the terrible, violent lives of the women trapped in horrible conditions that in a modern connected world should no longer exist.This is one of my favourite reads of 2019. 5 Stars!This was another buddy read with the wonderful Nat K, please check out her review when she posts it.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Now shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize after having been re read following its longlisting - my final comment proving prescient - and with additional comments added.The book takes its cue from research that shows (as a medical examiner in the book reflects during an autopsy) which “observed persistent brain activity in people who had died …. for as much as ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds.”The subject of the autopsy is Leyla Akarsu, a mid-40s (albeit claiming to be ten years younger) Pera Now shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize after having been re read following its longlisting - my final comment proving prescient - and with additional comments added.The book takes its cue from research that shows (as a medical examiner in the book reflects during an autopsy) which “observed persistent brain activity in people who had died …. for as much as ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds.”The subject of the autopsy is Leyla Akarsu, a mid-40s (albeit claiming to be ten years younger) Pera-based prostitute (who changed the spelling of her first name – trading the y of yesterday for the i of infinity – and was given the nickname Tequila by her madam), who was reported abducted and was found battered to death and dumped in a wheelie bin.The book opens immediately after her death in 1990: In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away. One last reserve of energy activated countless neurons, connecting them as though for the first time. Although her heart had stopped beating, her brain was resisting, a fighter till the end. It entered a state of heightened awareness, observing the demise of her body but not ready to accept its own end. Her memory surged forth, eager and diligent, collecting pieces of a life that she was speeding to a close. She recalled things she did not even know she was capable of remembering, things she believed to be lost forever. Time became fluid, a fast flow of recollections seeping into one another, the past and present inseparable. And the first section of the book (Mind) has each chapter taking place over one minute of her surging memories and fluid recollections (with one chapter for the thirty seconds, and one for the last eight), the Proustian nature of which takes its cue from the many conversations she had over nine years with a student activist and artist Ali (who defiantly adopted the nickname with which his racist German classmates had taunted him when they found out his artistic ambitions) who stumbles into the brothel after fleeing the police on the day of the riots following the visit of the US Sixth Fleet to Istanbul in 1968. ‘How did you end up here [in a brothel]” men always asked. And each time Leila told them a different story, depending on whatever she thought they might like to hear … But she wouldn’t do that with D/Ali and he never asked the question anyhow. Instead he wanted to know other things about her - what did breakfasts taste like when she was a child in Van, what were the aromas that she remembered most vividly from winters long gone, and if she were to give cities a scent, what would be the scent of Istanbul. If ‘freedom’ were a type of food .. how did she think she would experience it on the tongue? And how about ‘fatherland”. D/Ali seemed to perceive the world through favours and scents, even the abstract things in life, such as love and happiness. Over time it became a game they played together, a currency of their own: they took memories and moments, and converted them into tastes and smells. Each chapter starts with a different taste or smell – salt, lemon and sugar, cardamom coffee, watermelon, spice goat stew, wood burning stove, soil, Sulphuric acid, chocolate bonbons, deep fried street-food mussels, wedding cake, malt whisky, homemade strawberry cake - which unspool one of a series of seminal moments in Leila’s life, starting from her birth through to just before her death, as Leila’s life plays out against an occasional background of world and Istanbul events, and she answers for herself the question “How did you end up here [murdered]”. We also meet “the five”, Leila’s five closest friends – Sabotage Sinan (a childhood friend), Nostalgia Nalan (a trans woman), Jameelah (a fellow prostitute people-trafficked from Somalia), Zaynabi122 (cleaner in the brothel, fortune telling Lebanese dwarf), and Hollywood Humeyra (a bar singer) – and learn in separate chapters about the tales of rejection, prejudice, trafficking, forced marriage and (in one case) unrequited love that lead them to Istanbul. These sections in particular seem designed to include many of the themes around which Shafak admirably campaigns, but this did not feel excessively forced.The second section of the book “Body” is more conventional in its style and plot (and is based around a plot – in the (real life) Cemetery of the Companionless), if not in its ensemble. The five friends work together to give Leila’s body the end they believe it deserves and to prove that she is not companionless (with her "water" family stronger than her "blood" ones), in what ends as a brief but madcap grave robbing escapade culminating in a scene on the Bosphorus Bridge (which plays an important role in the novel).The brief closing section follows her Soul on its journey into a peace she never found in her life. The other key character in the book is Istanbul variously described as: a liquid city; a mighty metropolis ... still not solidified .. water .. shifting, whirling, searching; [a city which] made killing easy, and dying even easier; an illusion, a magicians trick gone wrong; multiple Istanbul’s - struggling, competing, clashing ... [which] lived and breathed inside one another like matryoshka dollar”. A city which attracts Leila and her friends when the flee their former lives but which turns out very differently to their expectations and very hostile to the marginalised (despite adding as a magnet for them) and for women. This is the third Shafak book I have read – she is always an author I have been disposed to like. She writes about one of my favourite cities (which I used to visit for work); her talks and essays are clearly written and insightful; her activism across a whole range of causes admirable (as shown by the opposition she attracts, even recently from Turkish conservative authorities); her literary involvement shows great taste (most recently as Goldsmith judge and Wellcome Prize chair – both of which recognised the brilliant “Murmur” by Will Eaves and where she must have been the comment factor).And yet … my previous reads have been three stars – due to their implausibility of plot, rather overtly forced themes and really poor endings.As a writer I am reminded of Zadie Smith – brilliant and admirable in so many ways, and yet just not quite able to convince me in a novel.However this is the strongest of Shafak’s novels that I have read – the central conceit of the novel is an ingenious new way of approaching an old technique which goes back beyond Proust (memories evoked by sense) even to Lawrence Sterne (memories stretching back to birth), and functions as an excellent way to examine her themes. The key moments that made Leila’s fate seemingly inevitable, which led to her lifelong but fully unjustified sense of guilt, and her perpetual status as undeserved victim, were I thought conveyed in a subtle but powerful way. I was less enamored with the five, their backstories and with the Body part of the novel. This was I think, meant to be a deliberate, enlightened (if not entirely successful) twist on the Hollywood ensemble/buddy quest movie and which was designed to include two things that Shafak is keen to address in this book (and in much of her writing)- Writing from the viewpoint of the outcasts, those on the peripheries of Turkish society- Trying to reclaim urban Istanbul as a feminine space - the city always being seen as female in Byzantine days - e.g. (my example here rather then hers) the church of St Sophia as the most important in the City compared to St Peter's in Rome.So overall a strong and enjoyable novel – and I would not be surprised to see the author this year receiving rather than giving out literary prize longlistings.
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  • Nada EL Shabrawy
    January 1, 1970
    Not as good as Daughters of Eve. But the life of Laila Tequila is beautifully told, as usual.
  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019I will put this whole review in spoiler tags for now, so that those of you who will be discussing it face to face can avoid reading it before we meet.Editing to remove spoiler tags after face to face discussion.This was my first experience of reading Elif Shafak, a writer I have heard very mixed things about, but one I have seen give a fairly impressive Goldsmiths lecture last year. I was pleasantly surprised, and came quite close to awarding another book.The Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019I will put this whole review in spoiler tags for now, so that those of you who will be discussing it face to face can avoid reading it before we meet.Editing to remove spoiler tags after face to face discussion.This was my first experience of reading Elif Shafak, a writer I have heard very mixed things about, but one I have seen give a fairly impressive Goldsmiths lecture last year. I was pleasantly surprised, and came quite close to awarding another book.The book is a story that focuses on the injustices that befall the disenfranchised in Turkey and particularly Istanbul, and Shafak's starting point is a real place, the Cemetery of the Companionless at Kilyos, and the documented reasons why people end up buried there in rough unmade graves.At the centre of the story is a prostitute known as Tequila Leila. The conceit that gives the book its title is that in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds after the body shows the first signs of death, brains still can show some activity. In Shafak's version Leila, whose murdered body has been left in a rubbish bin on the edge of the city, remembers various key events of her story and how she met the five close friends who are the nearest thing to a family she has. Her story starts in the east of Turkey, in Van. She is the first child of the second wife of her father, but the father chooses the first wife to bring her up as her own daughter, so her story is confused from the start. She is sexually abused from an early age by her richer and influential uncle, and when she gets pregnant and tells her parents the story they believe the uncle's account rather than hers, and after a miscarriage her parents try to arrange a marriage to her younger first cousin, which leads her to take her chances fleeing to Istanbul. The remaining parts tell her story there, how lack of other options led her into prostitution, and how she met the husband who briefly offered her an escape before he was killed in a leftist protest.Leila's five close friends each embody various reasons that the authorities might consign somebody to the Cemetery for the Companionless. One is a trans woman, others either have no family living in the country or have broken their family ties for other reasons.In the second part of the book the aftermath of the death is explored, as her friends, angered at the authorities' refusal to allow them to organise a funeral and burial for her, eventually decide to rescue the body from the cemetery. This ending becomes a little melodramatic, but overall the story is quite a moving one, and a pleasure to read despite visiting some pretty dark places.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    A sex worker in Istanbul has been murdered, and as her brain releases her life, the reader is transported to specific memories and stories. Her life is revealed alongside five close friends (like a Turkish cast of Rent) who play a bigger role in the second half of the story.This is on the Man Booker Prize longlist for 2019, but I must say it isn't the best book I've read by this author. Still it is quite readable and is based on an interesting structure. I had a review copy from the publisher th A sex worker in Istanbul has been murdered, and as her brain releases her life, the reader is transported to specific memories and stories. Her life is revealed alongside five close friends (like a Turkish cast of Rent) who play a bigger role in the second half of the story.This is on the Man Booker Prize longlist for 2019, but I must say it isn't the best book I've read by this author. Still it is quite readable and is based on an interesting structure. I had a review copy from the publisher through @netgalley which unfortunately removed all double "ff" and sometimes "ffi" as well as all numbers. This broke my momentum on reading the story every time. And at one point it completely removed the meaning of a street name that seemed important, and some back stories seemed connected to specific years, which I could not tell you the importance of at this point. Luckily I know quite a bit of Turkish history and culture because of my year of reading Turkey. So I do feel like I have a bit of an incomplete experience.Thanks to the publisher for granting me access via NetGalley; the book comes out December 1, 2019 in the states but is already out in the UK.
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  • Renee Godding
    January 1, 1970
    5/5 stars 5 stars to this extraordinary novel, that completely swept me off my feet. Having read some reviews by other people, I can see how it has its minor flaws, but to me personally , this book came quite close to perfection. 10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world is a beautifully crafted homage to a life forgotten by most, but remembered by a few close friends, that carried an important message and managed to touch me on an emotional level. Full review to come
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    This is my first novel by Elif Shafak and I doubt it will be my last. For the most part this was an immensely enjoyable read, marred only by a wobbly change in tone in the last third.The story of Tequila Leila read to me like a dark fairy tale morphed with the Victorian era idea of the "fallen woman". (view spoiler)[There were few surprises in this telling : a tyrannical father, abuse, banishment, deception, prostitution, a surprise marriage proposal, true love, disaster, and a reversal of fortu This is my first novel by Elif Shafak and I doubt it will be my last. For the most part this was an immensely enjoyable read, marred only by a wobbly change in tone in the last third.The story of Tequila Leila read to me like a dark fairy tale morphed with the Victorian era idea of the "fallen woman". (view spoiler)[There were few surprises in this telling : a tyrannical father, abuse, banishment, deception, prostitution, a surprise marriage proposal, true love, disaster, and a reversal of fortunes. (hide spoiler)] Leila’s story while terrifically sad is told with a warmth and humanity. There was no lingering voyeuristically on the vilest aspects. Friendship is ultimately the hero in this tale and I admired that. This novel is in many ways an old-fashioned one, in that foremost it is a well-crafted story (not something always encountered on a literary prize list). It is also a guide to the modern political and cultural complexities of Turkey. It is peppered with little nuggets of interesting history and leaves you pondering the restrictions of freedom for women and the lives of people marginalised due to sexual orientation or religious intolerance. The writing here is not perhaps as stylistically elegant as it could be. It verges towards the melodramatic, and at one point breaks out into a caper novel. Despite this 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World might be one of the most instantly immersive novels I have picked up recently.
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  • Joy D
    January 1, 1970
    Tequila Leila, a sex worker in Istanbul, has been brutally murdered. Her heart has stopped but her brain continues to function for 10 minutes 38 seconds. As she slips away, she tells her story through recounting memories of salient events of her life. We see her birth into a dysfunctional family, abuse at the hands of a relative, and formation of close bonds of friendship with five other social outcasts. We find out the reasons behind her flight from her small hometown of Van to Istanbul, and ho Tequila Leila, a sex worker in Istanbul, has been brutally murdered. Her heart has stopped but her brain continues to function for 10 minutes 38 seconds. As she slips away, she tells her story through recounting memories of salient events of her life. We see her birth into a dysfunctional family, abuse at the hands of a relative, and formation of close bonds of friendship with five other social outcasts. We find out the reasons behind her flight from her small hometown of Van to Istanbul, and how she became a prostitute. The story then shifts to the group of friends, who conduct a well-intentioned escapade to give Leila a proper burial. Şafak’s prose is expressive and insightful. Her vivid descriptions are filled with sensual details of the smells, tastes, and textures of Leila’s environment. She also includes historical references about Turkey and the Middle East, which educate, inform, and add local color. Although it is centered around a rather macabre premise, once the story gets going, the idea behind it subsides and it is easy to become engrossed in Şafak’s sophisticated storytelling. The first part of the book is structured into one-minute segments of memory, alternating with the backstories of Leila’s five eccentric friends. This structure is very effective in focusing the narrative on the essential information to understand Leila’s life, motivations, and how she ended up as a murder victim. The characters are beautifully drawn, and each friend has an important role in the second part that goes on after Leila’s death. I particularly enjoyed the way the friends love and support each other. The friends’ burial caper infuses a dose of dark humor and provides relief from the heavier content. Themes of this book include bonds formed through friendships (which can be even more important when family disappoints); the exploitation of sex workers and lack of a system that addresses the root causes; the dynamics of power; and how hard life can be for those viewed as “different.” It takes place in the 20th century, but the topics and themes are eminently relevant in today’s world. Though it is about death, it is to the author’s credit that it ultimately feels life-affirming and hopeful, a story of unbreakable human spirit in the face of injustice. Leila becomes a catalyst for positive change in the lives of her friends. This is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. This book has been nominated for the 2019 Booker prize. I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley.Memorable passages:Leila observes her thoughts as her brain shuts down: “Her memory surged forth, eager and diligent, collecting pieces of a life that was speeding to a close. She recalled things she did not even know she was capable of remembering, things she had believed to be lost forever. Time became fluid, a fast flow of recollections seeping into one another, the past and the present inseparable.” Leila reflects on her close friends, thinking of them as her safety net: “Every time she stumbled or keeled over, they were there for her, supporting her or softening the impact of the fall. On nights when she was mistreated by a client, she would still find the strength to hold herself up, knowing that her friends, with their very presence, would come with ointment for her scrapes and bruises; and on days when she wallowed in self-pity, her chest cracking open, they would gently pull her up and breathe life into her lungs.”
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    Although I very much enjoyed Elif Shafak’s previous novel “Three Daughters of Eve”, I was initially hesitant to read her new novel because the subject sounded so depressing. “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” recounts the final thoughts of its central character Leila after she’s been murdered and left in a dumpster. Scientists speculate that the brain remains active for a number of minutes after a person’s heart stops so the first part of the novel captures her final memories and refl Although I very much enjoyed Elif Shafak’s previous novel “Three Daughters of Eve”, I was initially hesitant to read her new novel because the subject sounded so depressing. “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” recounts the final thoughts of its central character Leila after she’s been murdered and left in a dumpster. Scientists speculate that the brain remains active for a number of minutes after a person’s heart stops so the first part of the novel captures her final memories and reflections. As the clock ticks down to the inevitable expiration of her consciousness we follow her journey from being born to a religiously conservative man with two wives in the provinces of Turkey to her life as a prostitute in Istanbul where she becomes known as Tequila Leila. Along the way she meets five vital friends. These people form a network of mutual support to each other amidst strenuous circumstances and social rejection. We’re also given brief glimpses into these five people’s experiences of alienation. While I admire the nobility of a novelist who sympathetically gives voice to the many voiceless represented in this novel it presents a lot of difficult subject matter including child abuse, religious extremism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, the plight of immigrants, poverty and sexual slavery. I also felt uncertain at first because in the first section of the book it feels like each friend of Leila’s self-consciously represents a different downtrodden community. In her attempt to make visible a full spectrum of alienated people Shafak risks turning her characters into tokens rather than fully realised individuals. But ultimately I found this novel came together and worked very effectively for a couple of reasons... Read my full review of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak on LonesomeReader
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  • Britta Böhler
    January 1, 1970
    This was... not good...
  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    In a direct rebuttal to the title of her fellow nominee Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, the central concept of Elif Shafak’s Ten Minutes Thirty Eight Seconds In This Strange World is inspired by a medical paper to the contrary published in 2017. A team of Canadian doctors observed brain wave activity, similar to that seen in people in deep sleep, in one patient, whose life support had been turned off, for 10m38s after their clinical death. (For the other three patients studied, the brain In a direct rebuttal to the title of her fellow nominee Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, the central concept of Elif Shafak’s Ten Minutes Thirty Eight Seconds In This Strange World is inspired by a medical paper to the contrary published in 2017. A team of Canadian doctors observed brain wave activity, similar to that seen in people in deep sleep, in one patient, whose life support had been turned off, for 10m38s after their clinical death. (For the other three patients studied, the brain waves activity actually ceased before clinical death.) The novel centers on Leila, a 42 year old from Istanbul, a prostitute by trade, and victim of sexual violence, who dies, in clinical terms, as the novel opens, but whose brain continues to function for the same (oddly coincidental, given the study was based on one patient) 10 minutes 38 seconds:Although her heart had stopped beating, her brain was resisting, a fighter till the end. It entered into a state of heightened awareness, observing the demise of the body but not ready to accept its own end. Her memory surged forth, eager and diligent, collecting pieces of a life that was speeding to a close. She recalled things she did not even know she was capable of remembering, things she had believed to be lost forever. Time became fluid, a fast flow of recollections seeping into one another, the past and the present inseparable.Each chapter that follows, typically for each minute of her post clinical death, opens with a different memory of taste or smell from her life, explaining the events that brought her to this point, for example:Five minutes after her heart had stopped beating, Leila recalled her brother’s birth. A memory that carried with it the taste and smell of spiced goat stew – cumin, fennel seeds , cloves, onions, tomatoes, tail fat and goat’s meat.followed by the story associated with the memory. As suggested in the quote above the life memories aren’t presented linearly, but rather roam back and forth through her life from 1947-1990. It should also be said that the stories themselves aren’t always her memories, but rather present a more traditional third party omnipotent narrator's perspective, making the story rather more conventional that the framing device might imply.Shafak effectively weaves in world and local political events into the background to frame the passing of time, for example after her body is discovered:Her death was also covered on national TV on the evening of 29 November 1990. It followed a lengthy report on the United Nations Security Council Resolution to authorize military intervention in Iraq; the after-effects of the tearful resignation of the Iron Lady in Britain; the continuing tension between Greece and Turkey following the violence in Western Thrace and the looting of stores owned by ethnic Turks and the mutual expulsion of the Turkish Consul in Komotini and the Greek Consul in Istanbul; the merging of West Germany and East Germany’s national football teams after the unification of the two countries; the repeal of the constitutional requirement for a married woman to get her husband’s permission to work outside the home; and the smoking ban on Turkish Airlines flights, despite passionate protests from smokers nationwide. Towards the end of the programme, a bright yellow band scrolled along the bottom of the screen: Prostitute Found Slain in City Waste Bin: Fourth in a Month. Panic Spreads Among Istanbul’s Sex Worker.In particular, the story revolves around two important events in Istanbul - the 1968 anti-US fleet protests, and the 1 May 1977 Taksim Square Massacre.A vivid picture of Istanbul is (although not the Istanbul that the Ministry of Tourism would have wanted foreigners to see) is presented through the story of Leila and her family, and also her five idiosyncratic friends, known by their nicknames as Sabotage Sinan, Nostalgia Nalan, Jameelah, Zaynab122 and Hollywood Humeyra. There is a lovely anecdote as to how the street where Leila lived obtained its unusual name: in time, as with all else in this schizophrenic city, the old and the new, the factual and the fictitious, the real and the surreal amalgamated, and the place has come to be known as Hairy Kafka Street.. And I was delighted to see, from the story referenced above on her brother's birth, that the Korean culture of 돌잡이 (doljabi), which we performed with our children, is also practiced in Turkey: Now he was made to sit on the carpet, surrounded by a range of objects: a wad of money, a stethoscope, a tie, a mirror, a rosary, a book, a pair of scissors. If he chose the money, he’d become a banker; if the stethoscope, a doctor; if the tie, a government official; if the mirror, a hairdresser; if the rosary, an imam; if the book, a teacher; and if he motioned towards the scissors instead, he was sure to follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming a tailor.The second 40% of the book, entitled The Body begins with her examined, post mortem, in a morgue. The doctor, who Shafak uses to tell us of the research into brain function after death, then (slightly anachronistically) extends that into a more philosophical view:Perhaps a person’s thoughts survived longer than his heart, his dreams longer than his pancreas, his wishes longer than his gall-bladder …If that were true, shouldn’t human beings be considered semi-alive as long as the memories that shaped them were still rippling, still part of this world?Logically I then expected the second section to be the friends’ memories of Leila, or perhaps more of their own stories, and while these figure, Shafak takes the book in a rather different direction. It becomes something of a caper story, as the five friends, using their individual attributes almost like a superhero story, attempt to retrieve and rebury her body with dignity: Leila’s friends were out of place here, but then again they didn’t seem to belong anywhere....Maybe the five of them, just like the people in a miniature painting, were stronger and brighter, and far more alive, when they complemented each other.And this part of the novel became a little overly sentimental and idealised at times. A rather harsh review in The Hindu, suggest that this is a trend in her recent work, and I had some sympathy with the following quote:The Elif Shafak of the post-Bastard novels has metamorphosed into a TED Talk-ing diva doling out wellness advice flavoured with dollops of mysticism to her adoring audience. Her latest, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, is so edifying that you might grow a halo of reflected glory reading it.Overall, the first section was a solid 4 stars, but the second 3 stars at best: 3.5 stars overall rounded down to 3. Worth its longlist place, but fringes of the shortlist material at best.
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  • Robert
    January 1, 1970
    I remember attending a lecture on taboos in literature and the lecturer said that there’s only one outright offensive thing an author can do in a book and that is have the dead narrating their life.Judging by this lecture then 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World must be number one on the literary taboo list.Tequila Leila is dead in a rubbish bin. As the brain takes 10 minutes and 38 seconds to fully shut down, Leila remembers 12 memories that shaped her. Since this is an Elif Shafak I remember attending a lecture on taboos in literature and the lecturer said that there’s only one outright offensive thing an author can do in a book and that is have the dead narrating their life.Judging by this lecture then 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World must be number one on the literary taboo list.Tequila Leila is dead in a rubbish bin. As the brain takes 10 minutes and 38 seconds to fully shut down, Leila remembers 12 memories that shaped her. Since this is an Elif Shafak novel, these memories expose the beauty and ugliness of Turkey: the corrupt politics, superstitions, hypocrisy and warped moral codes. Along all these life trials Leila manages to develop five deep friendships with outsiders like her.The second part of the book, switches perspective and this time her five misfit friends try find a graveyard to bury Leila. This time the focus is on Istanbul and the religious hypocrisy. If one is positive it can be seen as the power of friendship.The last part closes the book with Leila’s soul breaking free from the body. Personally I saw this as a neat way of providing closure.I am a fan of Shafak so I did like reading 10 Minutes. I found the first part stronger than the first, mainly due to the fact that the second reminded me of a slightly more dark Famous Five adventure. However, I can’t complain. An Elif Shafak book is like a nourishing meal: wholesome and complete. Although out of the three Shafaks I have read, I found 10 Minutes her most political and I liked that, plus since there were sections about the gentrification of Turkey, I was able to relate as Malta is going through the same thing at the moment . As always, the writing is fantastic and flows. A great read.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Critically-acclaimed Turkish writer Elif Shafak writes about topics close to her heart — immigration and being in an ethnic minority group at a time when race relations are heating up again surrounding Brexit. Her characters are strong women who know their own mind and come from diverse, multicultural backgrounds. Set against the backdrop of bustling, humid Istanbul, the title refers to the length of time lady of the night Leila's brain continues to operate despite being dead and dumped like tra Critically-acclaimed Turkish writer Elif Shafak writes about topics close to her heart — immigration and being in an ethnic minority group at a time when race relations are heating up again surrounding Brexit. Her characters are strong women who know their own mind and come from diverse, multicultural backgrounds. Set against the backdrop of bustling, humid Istanbul, the title refers to the length of time lady of the night Leila's brain continues to operate despite being dead and dumped like trash. One of my favourite aspects was how rich and vivid the Middle Eastern setting was with its sights, scents and sounds floating around the city and bringing it beautifully to life, including the local traditions and the fascinating culture.Written in an exquisite fashion, Shafak infuses the story with characters who are multidimensional and interesting. The first half explores dead girl Leila's life and times and her loves and hates and the second half is narrated by five of her friends who tell her life story from their perspective — the comparison of the two is very interesting. It's a novel about the importance of love, compassion, selflessness, family, friendship, politics, history and humanity and the potent mix of these within these pages is great. The evocative atmosphere and deceptively dark parts of the story created a palpable tension, and it's a vibrant place, alive with sound and colour. I will be keeping my eyes open for more from Ms Shafak for sure. Many thanks to Viking for an ARC.
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  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    This is the first time I have read a novel by Elif Shafak. Before starting, I took a brief look on the Internet to see some basic facts about her and she is a very impressive person. It is also true that I took to her style of writing very quickly: I found it elegant and engaging.The first and longest part of this, her ninth novel in English, tells the life story of a Turkish woman, Leila (aka Tequila Leila or Leyla), but from an unusual perspective. The woman has been murdered and her body dump This is the first time I have read a novel by Elif Shafak. Before starting, I took a brief look on the Internet to see some basic facts about her and she is a very impressive person. It is also true that I took to her style of writing very quickly: I found it elegant and engaging.The first and longest part of this, her ninth novel in English, tells the life story of a Turkish woman, Leila (aka Tequila Leila or Leyla), but from an unusual perspective. The woman has been murdered and her body dumped in a rubbish bin (this is not a spoiler - we learn this on the very first few pages). Her mind, however, continues to work for a further 10 minutes and 38 seconds and it ranges back and forth over her memories with each new chapter initiated by a taste or smell that her mind recollects. Often these chapters are chronological, but sometimes not:But human memory resembles a late-night reveller who has had a few too many drinks: hard as it tries, it just cannot follow a straight line. It staggers through a maze of inversions, often moving in dizzying zigzags, immune to reason and liable to collapse altogetherSo it is that we jump from her birth in 1947 to her early childhood in Van (1953) to her life as a prostitute in Istanbul (1967) and then back to her childhood in 1953. And so on. Crucially, as the story develops, we meet five other people who become her close friends. These are five people who are considered social outcasts and who come to play a very important part in later sections of the book.This is a fascinating framing device for telling Leila’s story. As we read, we uncover a story of sexual violence and exploitation. But we also read the story of a woman who learns to look after herself, who finds true love, who experiences tragedy. And all of this takes place against a background of real current events: the novel refers to world events that are well known (the assassination of President John F Kennedy being just one example) and to specific Turkish history that may be less well known internationally but are influential in making Turkey what it is today.The second part of the book moves away from Leila’s “blood family” and focuses on her “water family”, the five social outcasts who provide her with what he natural family no longer can or wants to. Reading this second part of the novel is a real surprise: the style changes completely and the book turns into a black comedy as the five friends look to give Leila a decent burial. All of sudden we are in a world with riotous driving, police chases, people falling into graves, packs of dogs threatening, people with alcohol intolerance getting drunk and maudlin.The book I read immediately prior to this one was The Wall by John Lanchester and I criticised that for feeling like two books welded together because the story takes an unexpected and, for me, unwelcome turn for the final third of the book. For a while, I had a similar reaction here, although not so extreme because the writing is much more to my liking so I found myself more tolerant. But I also quickly realised that here the style was actually the only thing that had changed. When reading The Wall, the style did not change, but the story being told became a story I was not interested in reading (especially given what I could have been reading given the context). In this novel, the story progresses in a more, for me, natural way (Leila dies, her friends seek to bury her), but the style shifts dramatically. This part of the story is often very funny (if you like your humour black), but it is rather disconcerting for a while. Leila’s five friends are often referred to as “the five” and this makes them sound like an adult version of Enid Blyton or some kind of movie superhero group. I felt a bit let down reading this part because what had been an emotional investigation into sexual violence suddenly becomes comic and a bit, well, gimmicky with “the five” dropping into roles that allow Shafak to make her points. (This is a bit like my reaction to the other Booker longlister “Girl, Woman, Other” where I also felt that the characters existed for the story rather than with a story, which isn’t necessarily a problem in a book but becomes slightly aggravating when it feels like it is being done so that the author can preach at you).There was one other thing that slightly bothered me about the book as a whole. There is a point in the book where Leila returns to her prostitution at the request of her former “boss”. As she enters the hotel for this assignation, she talks to the receptionist. When this happened, I found myself thinking “I don’t know you at all - who is this woman?”. And I realised that I had learned about Leila’s childhood, but I had no sense of her as an adult other than what was revealed in the opening chapter as she died.There is another key character in this book: the city of Istanbul. I haven’t read many books set in Istanbul (Orhan Pamuk is the only other author I can think of), but it must be an amazing place as my limited experience suggests that it becomes a character in all the books set there. There is this beautiful passage:Istanbul was an illusion. A magician’s trick gone wrong.Istanbul was a dream that existed solely in the minds of hashish eaters. In truth, there was no Istanbul. There were multiple Istanbuls - struggling, competing, clashing, each perceiving that, in the end, only one could survive.……Imperial Istanbul versus plebeian Istanbul; global Istanbul versus parochial Istanbul; cosmopolitan Istanbul versus philistine Istanbul; heretical Istanbul versus pious Istanbul; macho Istanbul versus feminine Istanbul… then there was the Istanbul of those who had left long ago, sailing to faraway ports. For them this city would always be a metropolis made of memories, myths and messianic longings, forever elusive like a lover’s face receding in the mist.I very much enjoyed reading this book. The sudden change in style was a bit jarring but worked fine for me once I had managed to adjust to it. I do wish that I had finished the book knowing Leila a bit better, but that may be my failing rather than the book’s.
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  • Jonathan Pool
    January 1, 1970
    ***Updated****Evening FOLLOWING at Daunt Books, Marylebone. July 30, 2019• The structural conceit (delayed shutdown of brain, was inspired by a Canadian study (early 2017)• Leila’s death (The End is flagged at the very start), was a real story of a transgender death in Turkey. Dumped in a trash can. The final insultStory of Turkey via outcasts> Istanbul a city of amnesia.> ES late to the city but remembers the earthquake. Tells a story of a bigoted shopkeeper who helped; for a short perio ***Updated****Evening FOLLOWING at Daunt Books, Marylebone. July 30, 2019• The structural conceit (delayed shutdown of brain, was inspired by a Canadian study (early 2017)• Leila’s death (The End is flagged at the very start), was a real story of a transgender death in Turkey. Dumped in a trash can. The final insultStory of Turkey via outcasts> Istanbul a city of amnesia.> ES late to the city but remembers the earthquake. Tells a story of a bigoted shopkeeper who helped; for a short period we were all one.> ES always associates Istanbul via tastes.. Memories are based around emotions, not facts.> Interested in chasing stories; also the silences> Interested in ‘the other’. Her own experience as an outsider Polygamy in Turkey is illegal. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen>Wants to write about patriarchy in a different, nuanced, way.> ES the subject of persecution. Repeated the well recorded trial of her characters (in The Bastard of Baghdad) for insulting Turkishness. (Article 301) Sentences were plucked from the book, taken out of context, and then the bots, trolls were let loose, all copied to the Turkish government.>Women writing about sex crimes is frowned upon.> In the last decade a 1,400% increase in sexual violence> 1/3 of marriages involve underage girls> The mentality is evident in that a rapist will receive a reduced sentence if he agrees to marry the victim.Depression. An important theme in the book. ES has suffered post-partum depression. The snowball section of the book is important (page 26). Believes that there’s a need to employ humour to combat. Its also a golden opportunity to stop, slow down and consider. Post natal depression is a season, not a destiny.Research. ES background is as an academic. She takes research very seriously. Lots of it; then stop and let the story fly.> Loves fiction and non fiction. Fiction reading is essential to gather the knowledge outside our field. She is interested in neuro sciences, cinema. The specialists didn’t anticipate Financial crisis, the Arab Spring, Trump, Brexit. Cross discipline is neededWriting technique (in answer to a question). > There is no precise schedule! Male authors often describe their schedule. Women are always juggling!>The author asks the questions. The answers are up to the reader> Es is political. Many countries don’t have that luxury.One fact about Elif Shafak which impresses me the more I think about it, is that she is that rare author who is exophonic ( i.e. those who write in a language not generally regarded as their first or mother tongue.). Alongside Vladimir Nabokov, and Samuel Beckett, Shafak has published in both languages, without the need for a translator.**** Original Review *****Elif Shafak is a writer and commentator well known for her support for women’s causes, for balanced discussion about migration of peoples in a volatile world,, and for her concerns regarding her native Turkey. 10 minutes, 38 seconds in this Strange World addresses each one of these vast issues. It’s very much Shafak territory with a fictional wrap.But this is absolutely not a dry or intense or pessimistic book. Far from it; I found this was a story of enduring, uplifting, friendships, and a story where the spirit remains unbreakable, in life and beyond the grave. From adversity comes hope and belief. “Our individual passing had no impact on the order of things” (5)A succession of injustices confront our main character, ‘Tequila’ Leila. It’s almost Dickensian as the reader anticipates the next turn of events mitigating against our heroine. The writing style also evokes (in a good way), the magical realism of Salman Rushdie (and the Arabian settings), and of Arundhati Roy. Its serious stuff conveyed in a perversely optimistic way. The structure of the book Part One. Leila has died. Her imagined contemplation of her own death is interspersed with reflections on a life lived in Istanbul and Van (1947-1990). Shafak conveys serious issues in a masterful, playful way.Part Two. Leila’s five friends mourn Leila’s passing. Sabotage’ Sinai, ‘Nostalgia’ Nalan, ‘Jameelah’, Zaynab122, (“he who has not travelled 'the world' has no eyes”), ‘Hollywood’ Humeyra are a heterogeneous selection of disparate types (they could be seen to represent the diversity of different peoples, nationalities and genders). Themes Family Leila’s extended family exhibit a full range of dysfunction, cruelty, abuse, and appalling treatment of women. It would be heart-breaking (and unfortunately the tales told are all too familiar across the world, and not just in Istanbul), were it not for the fact that Leila continues to fight back. Her mother, Binnaz, by contrast, doesn’t manage to escape the manipulation of those closest to her. Prostitution Theres no getting away from the fact that Leila is a prostitute, and that the exploitation of her and her co-workers is deeply repugnant, and unpleasant. I respect the balance achieved by Shafak in which the brothel work is presented as secondary for Leila (rather than defining of her). Don’t be lulled into thinking this is “pretty Woman” territory, though. There are horrible, horrible acts of utmost violence. It’s about power and cruelty, not just sex.Istanbul, like other capital cities is a destination for the vulnerable; runaways, and the desperate. Politics The real events of International Workers Day in Istanbul (as acknowledged by Shafak) provide the backdrop to D/Ali’s Marxist rallies.Asylum seekers, drowned in transit end up in Kilyos cemetery. “the unwanted, the unworthy and the unidentified”(255). Mysticism/SpiritualityThe second part of the book centres around dignity in death, and unexpectedly of a greater freedom when the spirit is released after death. I took this to mean that the physical send off has a bearing on the opportunity for the deceased to achieve release from whatever bad luck or injustice had ended the physical life.The Cemetery of the Companionless in Kilyos is a real place, and identified as such by Shafak in her notes, and with an accompanying photograph. The escape that takes place in the book feels a bit out of place in a book with such serious themes, but just maybe this crazy, all action, finale is a necessary device to attract new readers (if you are somebody who likes a big finale), and provides the opportunities for reviews that will feature happier endings. Those readers will then have cause to reflect on the serious issues surrounding family, migration, and tolerance that are central to the book.I enjoyed 10 Minutes very much. I felt uplifted and hopeful and that is a tribute to the focus on the unbreakable bonds of true friendship, no matter what your background or personal circumstances that win through.Highly recommended.
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  • DR.AmiraSalah
    January 1, 1970
    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    There is a lot to admire in this portrait of an Istanbul prostitute, her friends, her untimely murder, and the aftermath of her existence. However, I never really connected with the material, the characters, nor the story, or the way it was told. The first 2/3rds is basically a straightforward account of Tequila Leila's life, broken by the interpolation of brief vignettes of the lives of her five friends. It's given something of a novel twist in that it is supposedly remembrances flashing throug There is a lot to admire in this portrait of an Istanbul prostitute, her friends, her untimely murder, and the aftermath of her existence. However, I never really connected with the material, the characters, nor the story, or the way it was told. The first 2/3rds is basically a straightforward account of Tequila Leila's life, broken by the interpolation of brief vignettes of the lives of her five friends. It's given something of a novel twist in that it is supposedly remembrances flashing through her brain as it slowly dies, which gives the work its title. But aside from that hook, there isn't much that is novel or different - there are a few set pieces that resonate, but it pretty much follows the same tropes as any other book about a downtrodden whore, although the exotic setting does provide some interest. The final third abruptly changes focus and format, and becomes the story of the five friends' efforts to relocate Leila's body from a pauper's grave to a more suitable final resting place. I'm not convinced this section was necessary or warranted, and seemed from a different book altogether. I had some other quibbles - the prose itself never elevates much from the pedestrian, and there are some clunky passages which can be excused by English not being the author's first language - indeed, some of it reads like a stilted translation. I can see why it got tagged for a Booker nomination, however, since it does deal with some rather harrowing subject matter, but I doubt it'll move forward onto the short list. PS ... the free eBook I received had an odd formatting glitch, in that anytime there was a double f in a word, it would be omitted (e.g., office became o ice; suffer became su er) and I initially thought this was some weird stylistic tick, indicating the main character's brain shutting down - but asked a friend who had a hard copy, to discover this was NOT the case. My sincere thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA for the eBook ARC, in exchange for this honest review.
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  • Steve Clough
    January 1, 1970
    I’m still in the immediate afterglow of this novel, so I may revisit this in time but my current feelings are that I’ve just read a truly wonderful book, which sings of the city and the people of Istanbul. Tequila Leila and, for the most part, her friends, are so well drawn, I felt that I knew them by the end. My only criticism, if you could call it that, is that I’d have liked more of ending, or at least more detail. That aside, I loved this book. Elif Shafak is a true modern great!
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  • Katie Long
    January 1, 1970
    I found this enjoyable if a bit uneven. Shafak draws some unique, engaging characters, but unfortunately gives them stilted dialog and very little to do. Likewise, her description of Istanbul “a city where everything was constantly shifting and dissolving” is magnificent, but the story itself doesn’t have the depth to match the setting. It’s as though she had the set, but show left me wanting. #BookerPrize2019
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    From the 2019 Booker Prize Long List, Elif Shafak gives us a loving portrait of the female underclass in Istanbul. The writing isn't fancy and the characters and plot points are somewhat predictable, but somehow it all worked and made for a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    Generosity of spirit...Tequila Leila’s body is dead, but her brain has not yet shut completely down. As her consciousness slowly fades, she finds herself drifting through memories of her life – the childhood that made her the woman she would become, her family, her loves, her friends. And along the way, we are given a picture of the underbelly of Istanbul, of those on the margins finding ways to live in a society that rejects them. Despite the fact that the main character has just been murdered Generosity of spirit...Tequila Leila’s body is dead, but her brain has not yet shut completely down. As her consciousness slowly fades, she finds herself drifting through memories of her life – the childhood that made her the woman she would become, her family, her loves, her friends. And along the way, we are given a picture of the underbelly of Istanbul, of those on the margins finding ways to live in a society that rejects them. Despite the fact that the main character has just been murdered and is now lying dead in a rubbish bin hoping that someone will discover her body, this is a wonderfully uplifting, life-affirming story. Time ticks down minute by minute for Leila, each marked by an episode from her life, often triggered by a memory of an aroma or a taste, such as the lemons the women used to make the wax for their legs, or the cardamom coffee that Leila loved. And as we follow Leila through her memories, we learn about the people who have had the greatest impact on her life. Her father, hoping always for a son. Her mother, a second wife married as little more than a child to provide that son that the first wife has failed to give. Her uncle, a man who will disrupt her childhood and change her possible futures irrevocably. And most of all her friends – five people she meets along the way who become bound together closer than any family, through ties of love and mutual support in a world that has made them outsiders.It’s always difficult when reviewing this kind of fictional biography to avoid saying too much, since most of the joy comes from the slow revelations that bring us to where we know the story ends – with Leila’s murder. I loved this one so much I’m going to err on the side of caution and say nothing about Leila’s life, or the lives of her friends, other than that the book is not so much about how they are beaten down by the unfairness of their lives, but rather about how their mutual friendship helps them transcend their circumstances. The prose is wonderful, the many stories feel utterly true and real, and they are beautifully brought together to create an intensely moving picture of a life that might pass unremarked and unmourned by society, but showing how remarkable such a life can be in its intimate details and how mourning is a tribute gained by a loving, generous soul regardless of status.But as well as the people, Shafak creates a wonderful picture of the darker parts of Istanbul, where those whom society rejects hustle to live – “fallen” women, transgender people, people with physical disabilities, political dissidents, those who simply feel they don’t quite fit the life that has been allocated to them, by their families, by their religion, by the state, by fate. It’s often exotic, with wonderfully sensuous descriptions of food, aromas, sounds, colours. And there’s a sense of danger always hovering, with its corollary of exhilaration. Without any polemics, Shafak lets us see how this society works – still repressive to our Western eyes, but with a tension between those of a conservative cast looking East and those who look with envious longing towards the liberalism and comparative wealth of nearby Europe. A country that itself is in some senses as liminal and marginalised as the characters Shafak creates for us. A wonderful book that moved me to tears and laughter, that angered me and comforted me and, most of all, that made me love these characters with all their quirks and flaws and generosity of spirit. One of the books of the year for me and, obviously, highly recommended.NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Viking at Penguin UK.www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com
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  • Tommi
    January 1, 1970
    [2.5] You click with some authors, with some you don’t. I jotted down a list of things I did not like in Shafak’s novel and realized they’re all rather nitpicky (the floral cover design serving no evident purpose; the fact that foreign words are italicized; third-person narration not so impactful when you describe what goes on in one’s consciousness; (view spoiler)[of course there’s a storm in the story’s denouement (hide spoiler)] etc.) so I would rather say no more. I didn’t mind reading the b [2.5] You click with some authors, with some you don’t. I jotted down a list of things I did not like in Shafak’s novel and realized they’re all rather nitpicky (the floral cover design serving no evident purpose; the fact that foreign words are italicized; third-person narration not so impactful when you describe what goes on in one’s consciousness; (view spoiler)[of course there’s a storm in the story’s denouement (hide spoiler)] etc.) so I would rather say no more. I didn’t mind reading the book, however. I don’t need to be amazed by every book I read. And I appreciated that Shafak opened a window to the sad realities of prostitution in Istanbul.
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    This author manages to put huge and heavy issues in an easy to carry package. I normally would not like this sort of Chick Lit genre, but she also tackles huge social and political issues. It’s very important to read something by this author at some point! She is amazing at her craft.
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  • ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
    January 1, 1970
    Mindblowing.A girl is dead. Or dying. Or dead. Or on the threshold of … A sneak peak into an entirely strange world.Q:Her name was Leila.Tequila Leila … (c)Q:she might take offence and playfully hurl a shoe – one of her high-heeled stilettos. (c)Q:Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in the past tense. The very thought of it would make her feel small and defeated, and the last thing she wanted in this world was to feel that way. No, she would insist on the present tense – ev Mindblowing.A girl is dead. Or dying. Or dead. Or on the threshold of … A sneak peak into an entirely strange world.Q:Her name was Leila.Tequila Leila … (c)Q:she might take offence and playfully hurl a shoe – one of her high-heeled stilettos. (c)Q:Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in the past tense. The very thought of it would make her feel small and defeated, and the last thing she wanted in this world was to feel that way. No, she would insist on the present tense – even though she now realized with a sinking feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her breathing had abruptly ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that she was dead. (c)Q:This early in the morning they would be fast asleep, each trying to find the way out of their own labyrinth of dreams. (c)Q:There was so much she wanted to know. In her mind she kept replaying the last moments of her life, asking herself where things had gone wrong – a futile exercise since time could not be unravelled as though it were a ball of yarn. (c)Q:In the sky high above, a sliver of yesterday’s moon was visible, bright and unreachable, like the vestige of a happy memory. She was still part of this world, and there was still life inside her, so how could she be gone? How could she be no more, as though she were a dream that fades at the first hint of daylight? Only a few hours ago she was singing, smoking, swearing, thinking … well, even now she was thinking. It was remarkable that her mind was working at full tilt – though who knew for how long. She wished she could go back and tell everyone that the dead did not die instantly, that they could, in fact, continue to reflect on things, including their own demise. People would be scared if they learned this, she reckoned. She certainly would have been when she was alive. But she felt it was important that they knew. (c)Q:How could you possibly change gears the moment you walked out of an office where you had spent half your life and squandered most of your dreams? (c)Q:At some level invisible to the human eye, opposites blended in the most unexpected ways. (c)Q:The five of them: Sabotage Sinan, Nostalgia Nalan, Jameelah, Zaynab122 and Hollywood Humeyra. (c) Ok, this is taking a bit too far the talking names thingy. Q:How could seemingly sane minds be so consumed with all those crazy scenarios of asteroids, fireballs and comets wreaking havoc on the planet? As far as she was concerned, the apocalypse was not the worst thing that could happen. The possibility of an immediate and wholesale decimation of civilization was not half as frightening as the simple realization that our individual passing had no impact on the order of things, and life would go on just the same with or without us. Now that, she had always thought, was terrifying. (c)Q:The old woman was widely respected in the neighbourhood, and considered, for all her eccentricities and reclusiveness, to be one of the uncanny ones – those who had two sides to their personality, one earthly, one unearthly, and who, like a coin tossed into the air, could at any time reveal either face. (c)Q:When men asked – and they often did – why she insisted on spelling ‘Leyla’ as ‘Leila’, and whether by doing so she was trying to make herself seem Western or exotic, she would laugh and say that one day she went to the bazaar and traded the ‘y’ of ‘yesterday’ for the ‘i’ of ‘infinity’, and that was that. (c)Q:the thought she kept returning to was this: all these years she had been scared of make-believe Gypsies who kidnapped small children and turned them into hollow-eyed beggars, but maybe the people she should be fearing were in her own home. Maybe it was they who had snatched her from her mother’s arms.For the first time she was able to stand back and regard herself and her family from a mental distance; and what she found out made her uncomfortable. She had always assumed they were a normal family, like any other in the world. Now she wasn’t so sure. What if there was something different about them – something inherently wrong? (c)Q:As the tastes of lemon and sugar melted on her tongue, so too her feelings dissolved into confusion. … Just as the sour could hide beneath the sweet, or vice versa, within every sane mind there was a trace of insanity, and within the depths of madness glimmered a seed of lucidity. (c)Q:To this day she had been careful not to show her love for her mother when Auntie was around. From now on she would have to keep her love for her aunt a secret from Mother as well. Leila had come to understand that feelings of tenderness must always be hidden – that such things could only be revealed behind closed doors and never spoken about afterwards. This was the only form of affection she had learned from grown-ups, and the teaching would come with dire consequences. (c)Q:… she had a tendency to do everything to excess: she smoked too much, swore too much, shouted too much and was simply too much of a presence in their lives – a veritable maximum dose. (c)Q:She regarded her memory as a graveyard; segments of her life were buried there, lying in separate graves, and she had no intention of reviving them. (c)Q:Tell me, was your mother also a hygiene freak?’That made Leila stop cold. No more itching. (c)Q:A few of the labourers had a good voice, and they liked to sing, taking turns in leading. In a world they could neither fully understand nor prevail in, music was the only joy that was free of charge. (c)Q:This city always surprised her; moments of innocence were hidden in its darkest corners, moments so elusive that by the time she realized how pure they were, they would be gone. (c)
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