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The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Şafak
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The Architect's Apprentice (2014)

by Elif Şafak

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
We are taken to 16th century Istanbul in this novel and in the first pages we meet Jahan, a fake elephant tamer who arrives with Chota, a white elephant, a gift for the Sultan. The novel has a rambling nature with short chapters, each with a different atmosphere, that meant I struggled to settle in to the narrative and find the sense of the story. Some chapters are chatty and amusing, others are mysterious and dark. This style might suit other readers but I found it created a novel that seemed longer than necessary. There is intrigue and mystery but it is subtle and easy to miss and I never really engaged with the characters who seemed only lightly drawn. Elif Shafak has taken an interesting time in history and a good story of the architect Sinan and life in the Sultan's palace but for me it didn't quite conjure up this world and the elephant was the character I found most rounded. It is generally a sad novel set in a world where people can't be trusted and no one dare say what they mean. ( )
  Tifi | May 27, 2017 |
great read but it went on a tad too long and the final chapter was slightly annoying. very evocative of istanbul and i learnt a lot about the amazing and beautiful architecture. ( )
  Deborahrs | Apr 15, 2017 |
The Architect’s Apprentice - Elif Shafak
Audio performance by Piter Marek
4 stars

The story begins in 1540 when 12-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul with his beloved white elephant. He passes himself off as the elephant’s keeper, but he isn’t really. When his abusive stepfather sold the elephant he ran away, stowed away, and became the elephant’s keeper by default. This is only the beginning of the many times that Jahan bluffs his way through one crisis after another in his long life as the elephant’s keeper and as an apprentice to Mimar Sinan.

I thoroughly enjoyed the historical background of this book. I knew something about Italian Architecture of this time period, but I was ignorant of Sinan and his construction of the Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques. This book sent me to google images and additional reading. That’s always a sign of good historical fiction. I enjoyed Jahan and his affectionate relationship with the elephant. The underlying political and religious conflicts added continuing tension to the story.

I enjoyed this book more as printed text than when I listened to it. Piter Marek was pleasant to listen to, but his bland delivery totally missed the humor of Jahan’s misadventures with the gypsies. I loved Balaban and his gypsies as much as I loved Chota, the white elephant.

The book is very episodic, like the Arabian Nights tales. Some of the episodes were comic and others were tragic. There did not seem to be an organized story arc. This made the book seem longer than it was. It was difficult to follow the mystery of the sabotage and treachery taking place on the building sites. It was easy to see the conflict between religious and political fanaticism and a drive for creative, artistic freedom. However, I never saw that Jahan, as the main character, ever resolved his conflicts in any personal way. I kept feeling that Jahan’s life story had an overriding message in it that neither Jahan nor I understood. The end of the book, added an element of magical realism that seemed a bit arbitrary, as magic hadn’t been part of the earlier story. I was left with the sense that the author used it to make some kind of meaningful connection that I just didn’t understand. ( )
  msjudy | Aug 8, 2016 |
This historic novel tells the story of Mimar Sinan, one of the chief architect's of the Ottoman empire during the rule of Suleiman the magnificent. He and his apprentices are responsible for the design and construction of many beautiful mosques in Turkey and even influenced the design of the Taj Mahal. This book was a mixed experience for me. There were parts of this book that beautifully and poetically described life in the court of the Ottoman rulers, from the daily rituals of life to the horrific murders of all the brothers of the ruling Sultan. But there were also parts of this book that read like an encyclopedia. It almost felt like the author was trying to make sure that all the highlights of this man's life were covered which interrupted the flow of the story. Enjoyable but spotty. ( )
  jmoncton | Jul 17, 2016 |
I really struggled with this tale about a boy in the 16th-century Ottoman imperial court. I enjoyed learning about the Ottoman architect Sinan and the impressive building programs in the Ottoman empire, but I struggle to relate to the main character of Jahan, and the reading was a little tough going at times. I was glad I finished this book in the end - and I did enjoy the conclusion, although I had higher hopes for the fate of the elephant. I would recommend this to those with an interested in the Ottoman empire. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 12, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elif Şafakprimary authorall editionscalculated
Echevarría, AuroraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
At one glance I loved you with a thousand hearts
... Let the zealots think loving is sinful
Never mind,
Let me burn in the hellfire of that sin.
— Mihri Hatun, sixteenth-century Ottoman poetess
I have searched the world and found nothing worthy of love,
hence I am a stranger amid my kinfolk
and an exile from their company.
— Mirabai, sixteenth-century Hindu poetess
Dedication
For apprentices everywhere — no one told us that love was the hardest craft to master
First words
Of all the people God created and Sheitan led astray, only a few have discovered the Centre of the Universe — where there is no good and no evil, no past and no future, no 'I' and no 'thou', no war and no reason for war, just an endless sea of calm.
Quotations
He could not help but think if human beings could only live more like animals, without a thought to the past or the future, and without rounds of lies and deceit, this world would be a more peaceful place, and perhaps a happier one.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 052542797X, Hardcover)

From the acclaimed author of The Bastard of Istanbul, a colorful, magical tale set during the height of the Ottoman Empire

In her latest novel, Turkey’s preeminent female writer spins an epic tale spanning nearly a century in the life of the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul. As an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, he looks after the exceptionally smart elephant Chota and
befriends (and falls for) the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct (with Chota’s help) some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they
build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces—the incredible Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques—dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among
Sinan’s four apprentices.

A memorable story of artistic freedom, creativity, and the clash between science and fundamentalism, Shafak’s intricate novel brims with vibrant characters, intriguing adventure, and the lavish backdrop of the Ottoman court, where love and loyalty are no match for raw power.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:51 -0400)

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