The best historical novels impose familiar tensions upon unfamiliar locales and eras, making place and time come alive with accurate details and bold imagination. Elif Shafak excels in this alchemy with her latest novel, The Architect’s Apprentice...takes place in and around the sixteenth-century court of the Turkish sultanate, and the writing is rich with the magical, sensory world of Istanbul court life, where sport is made of acquiring the rarest and most extravagant items from East and West ...Shafak’s language flows with an enjoyable and elegant confidence disturbed only by a noticeable overuse of opposites and lists, which after a time can leave the impression that there is no observation or feeling that also does not contain its contradiction; no item that exists in isolation ... The mysteries that give momentum to The Architect’s Apprentice arise as a consequence of the double lives of the novel’s principal characters.
With architecture as its central motif, Elif Shafak’s novel The Architect’s Apprentice is a gripping page-turner that blends mystery with Ottoman history and Turkish folklore, combining the great heights of the Ottoman Sultanate with the desolation of poverty, war, imprisonment and the plight of the nomad ...follows the career of Mimar Sinan, the Royal Architect to the Ottoman Sultans during the 16th century and mastermind behind the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia renovation, and countless mosques, hospitals, schools and aqueducts ... The climax of the novel comes when Jahan realizes that people and things are not what they seem; readers intrinsically know that the narrator isn’t, either ... Some of the novel’s mysteries are not woven through the novel all the way, and some themes are introduced, but left un- or underdeveloped ... Despite these issues, The Architect’s Apprentice is an exquisitely realized historical yarn of 16th-century Ottoman Empire.
Architecture is a powerful motif in Elif Shafak’s intricate, multilayered new novel, which excels both in its resplendent details and grand design ...the finely wrought narrative is a beguiling baby elephant “as white as boiled rice” who becomes best friend to 12-year-old Jahan...ties that bind crisscross the complex story, and when the elephant is ordered to be sent as a gift to the sultan, such is the bond between boy and beast that Jahan becomes a stowaway...Jahan, who soon falls in love with the sultan’s daughter, becomes an apprentice to the sultan’s architect, Sinan, who teaches him how to build 'harmony and balance' within and without... Shafak excellently explores metaphorical bridge-building, too, between classes and cultures. This edifying, emotionally forceful novel shows how hate and envy destroy, and how love might build the world anew.
With this new novel, Shafak has given us a work of historical fiction deeply rooted in a particular moment while transcending the time and place of its setting to reimagine a transformative era in all its complexity ... The story's (fictional) protagonist, Jahan, is apprenticed to the great (and historical) Mimar Sinan, a prolific 16th century architect and builder under Suleiman the Magnificent and two of his successors ... The novel is densely episodic... Yet there is great beauty in Shafak's evocations of the era, and the novel can be read as a series of fascinating vignettes on the relationship between art and religion, creativity and devotion ... Nowhere is the novel's sense of place more deftly established than in Shafak's passages on the character of Istanbul ...vibrant, lush and lively, a fitting tribute to the era it so richly reimagines.
Turkish writer Elif Shafak does everything but pull a genie out of a lamp to evoke the 'Thousand and One Nights' in her new novel set in the 16th century ... The Architect’s Apprentice, Shafak’s 10th novel, is a consciously old-fashioned story, recalling folk tales to leisurely recreate Istanbul during the height of the Ottoman Empire. From the orphaned hero who has to rely on his wits to the beautiful princess and animal sidekick, Shafak does everything but open with 'Once upon a time' ...Jahan remains perpetually boyish – a state of suspended emotional development that can surprise a reader when Shafak talks about gray hair and wrinkles ...The Architect’s Apprentice offers an adventure story complete with battles, kings, sea voyages, prisons, disguises, artists, a curse, betrayal, and a Romany king who has a knack for showing up just when he is most needed.
In 1540, Jahan, a 12-year-old runaway from Anatolia, arrives in Istanbul by ship with a baby white elephant he names Chota — 'little' — a gift to Sultan Suleiman from Hindustan ... Lonely Jahan loves Chota and quickly learns to take excellent care of him ... Far more complex and intriguing is Jahan’s relationship to the architect, Sinan, whose philosophy lies at the heart of the novel... As both apprentice to the sultan’s chief architect and trainer of the sultan’s prize elephant, Jahan observes the glory of the Ottoman Empire, the pageantry and brutality, over a span of almost 100 years ...Jahan’s Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city made up of many nationalities and religions, all more or less getting along. With manufactured intrigues and lukewarm romance, plot is not Shafak’s strong point ...panoramic historical fiction rich with facts, atmosphere and occasional whimsy.
Shafak's (The Bastard of Istanbul) rambling historical epic weaves its way through the rule of three sultans in 16th-century Istanbul ... Twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in the city alone except for an important gift for the Sultan that he has been entrusted with by the Shah of India—a baby white elephant named Chota ...he meets Sinan, Chief Royal Architect, who is impressed by the boy's intelligence and curiosity and arranges for him to receive a palace education ...he studies architecture and works at construction sites...Jahan works with his beloved master for many years and witnesses disastrous plagues, the intricate dance between religious and political power, and the anxiety of changing regimes ...ambitious and colorful novel loses momentum at times, but she skillfully uses the fictional elephant trainer to paint a vivid portrait of the great architect, Sinan, and the lives of both royals and commoners.