Elif Shafak’s ‘Honour’ is a gripping exploration of the darkest aspects of faith and love. She wrote Honour in English first before translating it into Turkish. Elif Shafak is a persistent writer. The publication of an earlier novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, saw her charged with insulting “Turkishness”. Her book, Honour, widens her earlier treatment of the theme of identity, to examine what it means to be an immigrant when the prescriptive traditions you have fled are still carried within.
In accurate writing style, Elif Shafak captures a culture where a man can abandon the family home to lean with a mistress, but where a woman who elopes will be presented with a rope as an understood order to do the well-mannered thing. Yet without challenging that we identify with such suppressive civilizing traditions, Honour is deepened by Shafak’s compassion for what it means to be human, in particular what it means to be manly.
In scenes she shows sons being worshipped by their mothers and fathers being earlier or afterwards overthrown by their sons. While never condoning the crime at the heart of this story, she does offer us a sight of how lost a child can become when the family arrangement falls apart.
There are plotting frustrations. Coincidence plays its part once too often, and there is a twist. With added poignancy, Honour is dedicated to “those who hear those who see”. Although this gripping novel’s twist may be too commonplace for some, no one who hears about this book or, better still, reads it, can hereafter turn a blind eye to the disgraceful truth that honour killings still take place. It was my first read by this author and will without doubt not be my last! The story was told in a way that made me feel as if I was right there with the characters.
Author: Elif Shafak
Date of publishing: 2011
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