What makes Leyla Erbil’s A Strange Woman stand out amongst the cacophony of literary experimentation is the novel’s actualization of its own linguistic exploration not only in form but in content as well. While the main perspective of the novel is that of Bayan Nermin, Part II folds back onto her father’s life as he loses his grip on life. As literary daughters take up the mantle, the father in Erbil’s own novel flounders in his final days as he looks back upon his life in a country he no longer recognizes ... The investigation of not only a generational transformation but a gendered one results in a multi-vocal novel, weaving together attempts at communication that come apart at the seams of interpretation ... The text is deeply funny, using humor to deconstruct the distance between opposing viewpoints, with a humor that is dark and hysterical ... Menemencioğlu and Spangler’s lines request multiple readings, not so much for slowing down the reading as for sharpening the lens on an image that refuses to focus. As a result, there is a ghostly feeling in the lines, the haunting possibility of more ... There is breathtaking strength in Nermin’s perseverance as she strives to navigate in a world remaking itself, and while the text hints at a feeling of a coming-of-age novel there is a sense of an age eternally yet to come. And it is with this sense of potential that Nermin’s final question, to herself, to the reader, echoes in the air long after the text’s completion.
Balancing various voices, the text is unsettling in parts and humourous in others, as in when the stream of consciousness in the second section serves as a historical counterpoint to the still-aspiring present, while the fourth section cruelly exposes the gap between leftist ideals and the actual reality for the ‘people’. Yet, what makes this novel extraordinary is its feminist nature. A Strange Woman was published at a time when the word feminism had not yet entered the Turkish vocabulary and mindset, and as such it was ground-breaking in confronting issues such as virginity, incest, and sexual and physical abuse ... By speaking through Nermin, a young woman and aspiring poet growing up in Istanbul, Erbil vividly conducts us through the cultural and political scenes of the city during the 1960s.
... pioneering though esoteric ... Though many of the historical references and mentions of Turkish poems and songs will be a stretch for those not steeped in that culture, Erbil succeeds in crafting a portrait of a young woman from fractured and contradictory points of view. This is one for specialists and scholars.