Honour by Elif Shafak
|Honour by Elif Shafak|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A novel offering a caring, insightful look at the pressures and heritage behind something we view as tragic, emotionally charged headlines. Reading Honour won't make the real life occasions any less tragic, but it does increase our understanding and realisation that sometimes the reasons aren't as clear cut as our judgement.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: January 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Jamila and Pembe are twins who, growing up among the Kurdish in Turkey, are as wrapped in the customs of their Muslim faith and heritage as they are in the love of their family. While Jamila develops a talent that will make her the hub of her community, Pembe's destiny lies over the sea as she migrates to England with her husband Adem in search of a better life. However, the destiny that each travels towards is oh so different from the destiny of which they dream.
This is the eighth novel from Elif Shafak, further proof as to why she's the most read female author in her native Turkey and good reason for its Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 long-listing. Even although she's writing in a second language, none of the impact is lost as she hits us with a story of great power and greater sorrow.
From the very beginning we feel the storm gathering. We can guess its central theme from novel's title. Early on we're told who did it and not much later we have a good idea who the victim is but we don't feel cheated or 'spoilered' as we continue reading. Such is the talent and literary magnetism displayed that we're drawn on through surprises and an educational osmosis to which we're more than eager to submit. For, above all else, this is a tale written with compassion and an understanding that surrounds all who populate it.
Through the eyes of Jamila, Pembe, their men, their children and their ancestors we read about the beliefs and customs of the proud but stricken Kurd Muslims. As we trace Pembe and Adem's families in both chronological directions we visit their peasant village where a retained reputation is more valuable than gold and encounter a sense of place that is contrasted with the alienation that Pembe feels in England. We watch Pembe's children grow and become further torn between their fading homeland memories, what they feel their identity is, what others tell them their identity should be and a western land where fitting in with peer groups means the world.
The really striking thing about Honour, among all the striking things, is the way in which Elif encourages us to view this rich story. It would be easy to pit goodies against baddies but she bravely resists that temptation, giving us something deeper. With subtlety we are invited to note that, where at least some honour killings are concerned, everyone is a victim. In this case even the killer is the victim of perceived expectations and responsibilities that model his behaviour as clearly as the double standards that rule the patriarchal society the author lays before us. Elif has provided us with a novel demonstrating that the past is often a reason for the present and that wielding absolute authority can be a trap for the authoritarian as much as those their authority subsumes.
Between the book's covers we travel a fair distance geographically but we travel even further intellectually as we're assisted to relate to all concerned, each person's story showing that the answer is much more complex than the law shouting 'You shall not kill.' Hopefully understanding this will be the first step towards the ultimate goal of eradicating the practice and safeguarding all its victims.
If you've enjoyed this and would like to read more of Elif Shafak's work, we definitely recommend The Forty Rules of Love.
You can read more book reviews or buy Honour by Elif Shafak at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Honour by Elif Shafak at Amazon.com.
Honour by Elif Shafak is in the Top Ten Crime Novels 0f 2013.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.