For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory of her life in Turkey before and after she became a prostitute. From the best-selling Turkish author of The Bastard of Istanbul and Honour.
... a bold, subversive, excellent novel ... Where some other books’ maps are flatly illustrated, providing a crisp view of a place from directly overhead, this one is drawn from an angle, its edges obscured by clouds. A sea gull is foregrounded. Istanbul is cramped underneath. This becomes a neat visual representation not only of the sites in the story but of the author’s intent. As sweeping as the novel is, moving across time, space, characters and planes of existence, it stays grounded in the sensations that make up daily life. It has both enormous ambitions and laser-sharp attention to detail. The map is a promise: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World will never take a bird’s-eye view without also showing exactly which bird’s eyes we are peering through ... [Shafak's] skills as a writer — her confident pacing, emotional honesty and political consciousness — unite the two halves, making for a gripping and moving whole. Not every bit is perfect; a few characters are unevenly developed and the language can feel stilted in places. But these flaws hardly diminish the book’s overall quality ... is well deserving of honors. Shafak writes with vision, bravery and compassion. Her novel is a stunning portrait of a city, a society, a small community and a single soul.
... everything we have come to expect from Shafak. Here is not only that exquisite compassion and trademark humanity but also a vibrant evocation of a hidden Istanbul in the middle of the 20th century; touching, idiosyncratic friendships and the complex inner lives of the female characters for which she has long been known ... Her friends are immigrants and underdogs, Marxists and runaways, and their own diverse, eccentric histories are one of the novel’s particular pleasures ... As Turkish writers know all too well, it is impossible for fiction to be truly apolitical and reading Shafak, one wouldn’t want it to be. Never didactic, here is an object lesson in how fiction can at once entertain and enlighten. Faint traces of magic and superstition linger, and Leila’s heightened state is reflected in the prose, which is lush and rich and lucid. This is a novel that gives voice to the invisible, the untouchable, the abused and the damaged, weaving their painful songs into a thing of beauty.
... a profound, humanising narrative ... buzzing, chaotic ... Shafak does something remarkable here. She infuses Leila’s personality with heart and soul and surrounds her with a set of 'undesirables', five friends whose characters are sketched with beauty and pain. By revealing layer upon layer of her interior life, the novel draws a magnificently nuanced portrait of its protagonist ... Shafak takes a piercing, unflinching look at the trauma women’s minds and bodies are subjected to in a social system defined by patriarchal codes. It’s a brutal book, bleak and relentless in its portrayal of violence, heartbreak and grief, but ultimately life-affirming. Here, as in Shafak’s previous work, we find the good old-fashioned art of intricate storytelling, something I miss sometimes in modern fiction. The mad, exhilarating final section, in which Leila is a corpse being driven away from the 'cemetery of the companionless' by her friends, is a testament to Shafak’s brilliance as a storyteller. People in Turkey and elsewhere should celebrate her work.