When you pick up a fiction book, you hope the story to be imaginative, creative, and unique. This combination of course is expected and accepted universally. However, mix in historical events, characters that held the world with the power of their hands, and you get this vividly, played out movie in your head. That’s how I felt when I completed The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak.
The story dates back to the 16th century of the Turkish rule when Sultan Suleiman was in his prime. It follows the journey of an Indian Mahout a.k.a an elephant tamer; Jahan, on his voyage from India to Turkey to present the Sultan a rare white elephant as a gift from the Shah of the Mughal Empire. As a young boy, he is quickly put into the schemes and ways of the Royal Zoo where he gets acquainted with more tamers and develops an unlikely bond with the Princess Mihirmah who has a keen liking for the white elephant.
“‘Sometimes for the soul to thrive, the heart needs to be broken, son.’
‘I don’t understand, effendi. I wouldn’t want anyone to waste my work’
‘In order to gain mastery, you need to dismantle as much as you put together”
With this begins the Jahan’s story of falling in love with the Princess, becoming an apprentice to the Chief Royal Architect Sinan, building Mosques to immortalize the glory of the 3 generations Sultans of Turkey, and find his passion for the art constructing buildings.
“Resentment is a cage, talent is a captured bird. Break the cage, let the bird take off and soar high. Architecture is a mirror that reflects the harmony and balance present in the universe.”
I may not be doing justice to the summary I wrote above, however all the dignitaries in power mentioned were once among the living and it’s fascinating to read historical fiction where imagination begins as soon as reality ceases. When it ceases? You can never guess and the blurry line separating them both, leaves the reader with a story vividly engrained in the mind.
Elif Shafak truly has her own way with making characters seem larger than life and not just a fragment of her imagination. The opinions of these characters – when you read them – don’t seem to be have originated from the person of a different gender. I mean they’re free of bias and appear to have been thought out exclusively by them. I don’t think that makes sense, but her writing is so fluid and not bound by gender.
Don’t expect this to be as amazing as Forty Rules of Love, this is amazing on a different level in which comparison with forty Rules is not only unfair but ridiculous. The story is truly unique, and the themes are universal. Give it a go.
Now, onto the basics:
- Rating: 4.5/5.0
- Favorite quote: “Of all the people God created and Sheitan led astray, only a few have discovered the centre of the Universe – where there is no good and no evil, no past and no future, no ‘I’ and no ‘thou’…”
- Reader level: It’s easy, with terminology that is dated back in the 16th century that may have to be looked up.
- Should you read: Fictional History is a fun genre, try it.
- Would I read it again: Definitely.
Till next time,