Honour by Elif Shafak - review by Sarah A Smith

Sarah A Smith

From Kurdistan to Hackney



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The author of eight novels, three of them in English, Elif Shafak has been heavily lauded with prizes and praise in East and West alike. Her ambitious, emotionally compelling new work, Honour, leaves the reader in no doubt that she deserves all these plaudits, and more.

Set variously in a Kurdish village in southern Turkey, a dingy flat in Istanbul and a Hackney estate, and focusing upon events in 1945, 1978 and 1992, Honour is a family saga with debts to Freud and to Dickens. Its themes are emotional damage and the destructive force of social restriction. These are explored through Adem, the Turkish child of a broken home, his Kurdish wife, Pembe, and her twin, Jamila. The story is carried forward, and brought to its catastrophic conclusion, through the lives of Adem and Pembe’s three children, for whose betterment they moved to London.

Shafak is a political scientist by training and her work teems with ideas. Chief among them, of course, is the honour of the title, which she examines from several angles. Adem’s mother has abandoned the family home to be with her lover, and his father is an alcoholic: two types

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