... 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.
Elif Shafak is vexing officials in Turkey again. Good. A brilliant writer fluent in both English and Turkish, Shafak is a difficult problem for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repressive government ... a deeply humane story about the cruel effects of Turkey’s intolerant sexual attitudes ... These early sections of the novel are a heartbreaking portrayal of the way misogynist social and religious attitudes conspire to crush a girl’s spirit. Shafak demonstrates with piercing insight how young Muslim women in Turkey are caught between religious ideals of purity and male fantasies of debasement ... Shafak is a master of captivating moments that provide a sprawling and intimate vision of Istanbul ... What’s most surprising, though, is the novel’s bright humor, even, at times, its zaniness: Weekend at Byzantine Bernie’s! ... truly subversive.
These recollections, which begins from her birth in January 1947 to her death in November 1990, give glimpses of life as a woman in a country where personal, political and moral values are heavily dictated by religion and men. These glimpses are heartbreaking. They are unfair. And yet they also represent courage, beauty and hope, like a rag-tag team of misfits who are determined to stick it to the man against all odds ... Shafak grew up in a lonely and curious world suspended between her independent, forward-thinking mother and a more spiritual, uneducated, old-world grandmother. This remarkable coexistence has made her not only the most widely read female author in Turkey but also an award-winning international author and TED speaker.
On the face of it, there couldn’t be a more depressing story. Yet Leila’s tale is surprisingly uplifting ... There is so much beauty in this book ... And there’s wisdom too ... Thanks to Shafak, the voices of women like Nalan and Leila will no longer be silenced.
[Shafak] writes with immense compassion about those too damaged, defiant or different to fit in ... Shafak skilfully weaves in references to historical events happening around her before then. Some of these moments can’t help but sound political and pointed: the young and idealistic, taking to the streets or forming subversive friendships. One of the standout scenes depicts Leila in Taksim Square in 1977 when gunmen fire into a crowd gathered to mark International Workers’ Day ... The novel is no masterpiece — its prose can feel functional and is sometimes too emphatic — but the story Shafak weaves is deeply moving. And it can often be surprisingly upbeat, as Leila, an outcast herself, assembles around her a merry band of misfits who love her better than her blood family ever could. The result is imaginative and admirably tight, a novel that paints a memorable and nuanced picture of life on the fringes of Turkish society.
After Leila’s narrative reaches full circle with her murder, the perspective switches to that of her five friends. They are devastated to learn that Leila has been buried in an unmarked grave, and proceed to dig her up in the middle of the night. The scene is somewhat farcical—and not necessarily in a good way. Likewise, Shafak’s highly figurative language ('maybe she was only a half-broken horse') will divide readers. But the author should be commended for her unflinching confrontation of a range of themes that will resonate well beyond contemporary Turkey: victim blaming, the policing of women’s behaviour, stigma surrounding disability, and violence against sex workers. Above all, Elif Shafak shows how Turkey’s diversity, long feared and denied by its powerful, lives on in the personal histories of its migrant multitudes in 'old, manic' Istanbul.
The literary merit of Elif Shafak’s latest novel is considerably compromised by her attempt to make a saint of her protagonist ... so edifying that you might grow a halo of reflected glory reading it ... To drive home her point about the injustice women and minorities are subjected to in Turkey, Shafak dunks her characters in every kind of imaginable trauma ... You pity Leila as a battered victim of circumstances, but when has pity made for great literature? ... [a] predictable novel ... it drips with sweetness, with a lot of hand-holding ... Whatever the demerits of 10 Minutes, Shafak is brave in writing about an issue that the state wants thoroughly hushed.