19. The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak


There is a certain type of achievement one feels when finishing Elif Shafak’s book. Maybe it’s just me and my biasness towards this woman that I feel after finishing her books or the fact that beyond her writings and stories, the “Author” is more compelling than a story itself.

“People say I have a fanciful mind – probably the most tactful way ever invented of saying ‘you’re talking nonsense!’”

When the first sentence starts off like this, rest assured I am hooked. However, as this book is a compilation of many storylines connected by one main objective/place/human/ideology, I usually find such books difficult to wrap my head around for many reasons. However, Elif, the maestro she is, pulls it off so seamlessly and easily that one doesn’t feel so confused about the characters afterall.

The story revolves around a very mundane issue: Garbage overflow in Istanbul, particularly surrounding an apartment complex called “The Bonbon Palace” and its inhabitants. We’re introduced to all the tenants, their quirks, flaws, backstories, influences, deepest regrets, conniving habits (kids in particular- yes you read that right!), and the intricacies of human relations in general. For me the story of the twin hairdressers who were brought up separately but decided to open a saloon was extremely intriguing for if one was day the other was night, and how their past unravels was utterly beautifully curated.

Secondly, the main character (not protoganist) is an alcoholic, divorced, handsome, university professor who narrates the story, and it isn’t until the last page that it all connects in your mind how even the tiniest of details were all integral to the development of the character and isn’t that a vital skill to have as an writer? But Shafak’s acknowledgement at the end was so different, I’d recommend reading! Also I came across this Tedtalk by her that resonated with me on a whole another level, worth the time

So, back to the basics:

  1. Rating: 4.0/5.0
  2. Favorite quote: Every loss is unprecedented. You can’t ever know someone else’s hurt, not really—just like touching someone else’s body isn’t the same as having someone else’s body.”
  3. Reader level: Nor too hard, neither too easy, sorta in the middle of opening a dictionary occasionally, and just skipping it and trusting your inference.
  4. Should you read: Yes please.
  5. Would I read it again: Maybe.

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