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Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Şafak

Three Daughters of Eve

by Elif Şafak

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I really enjoyed the introduction to Peri as a contemporary character before peeling back the years to see some of her formative experiences. Whilst I enjoyed the contemporary sections of the novel and thought that Shafak had interesting thoughts and comments on modern Turkey I found some of the characters one dimensional and at times it felt more like a caricature, perhaps purposely, of the Turkish elite than a compelling cast.

In contrast, I adored the earlier sections. In Istanbul, teenage Peri is an empathetic and fair narrator. Her parents “as incompatible as tavern and mosque” are wonderfully drawn and full of life and alongside her brothers, one of whom is drunk on nationalism, are a magnifying glass to the challenges of secularism and religion in modern day Turkey.

Moving to Oxford Peri becomes friendly with two other young Muslim women. In a mirror to her home life one is a devout Egyptian / American (the Believer) and the second is a loudly secularist displaced Iranian (the Sinner). They form an unlikely trio with Peri who, in light of her upbringing, is not surprisingly the Confused. Again, I found all deftly drawn, not only as characters but also highlighting the flaw of assumed identity politics and as a repetition of the theme of secularism vs religion.

These themes are explored again as Peri and Mona join Professor Azur’s seminar series about God. Initially a charismatic if arrogant non traditional lecturer, I quickly found him to be manipulative and unpleasant.

At this point I felt I was reading a five star read – great characters and smart dialogue were underpinned by interesting yet challenging ideas. Unfortunately, I felt at this point the author unnecessarily attempted to add mystery and tension into the plot. Rather than adding to my enjoyment this marred it somewhat and the ending felt a little confused and slap dash. I will however definitely read more of Shafak’s work. ( )
  itchyfeetreader | May 3, 2018 |
Peri, a Turkish upper middle-class woman, all her life has been caught between secularism [first that of her father] and blind religiosity [of her mother]. Set against the background of a posh dinner and cocktail party where such things as politics, terrorism and other social issues are discussed, in flashback we see Peri's early life in Turkey with her family, then as student at Oxford University. She becomes friends with two other Muslim girls, one, adventurous and free-thinking, Shirin; the other a pious, hijab-wearing girl, Mona, who has modern feminist ideas but clings to her tradition. Years later, after an attempted mugging and robbery, she holds on to a keepsake of her Oxford years, a Polaroid of the three girls and the charismatic, unorthodox philosophy professor. We follow Peri through her doubts and her existential crisis.

The ending was a bit weak, but I was caught up in Peri's feelings and how she dealt with life. ( )
  janerawoof | Feb 7, 2018 |
I thought that this novel was quite interesting. Peri's character takes us on a journey into the past and the present through alternating chapters. In this way, the reader gets to understand Istanbul, the country of her birth, and what it means to be Muslim. I really liked the time the author spent explaining Peri's experiences to the reader; it gave me a new perspective to consider. This novel also talks about tensions in the family, and how secrets and frustrations can upset family dynamics. I will admit, I was more interested in the past than in the present events, but I found Peri's grown-up character (during the present) to be wonderfully mature in her views on politics, religion, and the role of females. I also loved watching Peri grow up and become confused about her views and identity, especially once she attends Oxford. I wish there had been more tension in the events that occurred in the past, and wish certain things had been explained in more detail because they seemed to happen out of nowhere and caught me off-guard. After all the lovely explanations about Islam and the cultural mosaic in Istanbul, I wanted the author to help me understand more of Peri's actions. I also wish there had been some tie-in to explain how Peri got to where she was in the present time, as that would have been a good transition. Overall, I found this novel to be thought-provoking and insightful, but not a thriller in any sense. This is a slower novel but it is beautifully written and I would recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy and religion, and the way these 2 aspects can shape a person's identity. 3/5 stars from me!

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

For more reviews, visit: www.veereading.wordpress.com ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
As a freshman in college, I boldly took the senior seminar on Miguel de Unamuno, reading San Manuel Bueno, Martír and Del sentimiento tragíco de la vida as well as his other works. It was one of my favorite classes because the subject matter was so fascinating. Unamuno struggled with the conflict between doubt and faith, the inner conflict that is the unifying theme of Elif Shafak’s Three Daughters of Eve.

Three Daughters of Eve is a novel of ideas and how they can tear a family and even a person apart. Peri’s father is a secular Turk, an admirer of Ataturk and nominally Muslim, contemptuous of superstition and the oppressive traditions. Her mother is increasingly devout, increasingly fundamentalist. Her older brothers are equally divided and the family is broken by these divisions, or so it seems to Peri.

Her father pushes Peri to free herself by going to Oxford where she finds a professor who teaches God – not religion, God. In a way, he’s teaching Unamuno’s lesson, faith and doubt go together, uncertainty is the way. In Unamuno’s words, “Without doubt, there is no faith.” She thinks he is the teacher she needs, but his teaching methods are risky, pushing students into conflict.

The “three daughters” seem to be Peri and her two roommates, Shirin and Mona. Shirin is doubt, Mona is faith, and Peri is uncertainty. The perfect experiment for the professor’s theory–an experiment that ends in scandal. However, Mona and Shirin are secondary characters. This is about Peri and focuses on three stages of her life, childhood, college, and maturity. In a sense, she is also the three daughters of Eve.

I liked Three Daughters of Eve. It would be obvious to focus on how Shafak is writing about the Muslim dilemma, the conflict between fundamentalism and modernity. But that’s a shallow understanding of her book. Fundamentalism is rigid in all religions. It is in conflict with modernity in all religions. The conflict between faith and doubt is universal. It’s nothing special about Islam and neither is terrorism. After all, what is the difference between Eric Rudolph and Richard Reid? Congressman Rick Allen says gays deserve to die. Please let’s stop pretending that Islam is so backward when we have people excusing child molesting because Mary was a teenager.

If you read Three Daughters of Eve as about Islam and not about the universal dilemma of faith and doubt, then you will miss the real lesson that professor risked so much to teach.

Three Daughters of Eve will be published on December 5th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Three Daughters of Eve at Bloomsbury USA
Elif Shafak author site

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/9781632869951/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Dec 4, 2017 |
A random incident of street-crime prompts bourgeois Istanbul housewife Peri to look back 15 years to her time in Oxford and her encounter there with a controversial philosophy don, Professor Azur. This in turn allows Şafak to have a bit of fun mocking the Turkish upper classes whilst exploring the tensions inevitably set up in people who grow up exposed to a constant debate between Islam, Kemalist secularism, western liberalism and modern capitalist ultra-nationalism. At home in Istanbul the young Peri feels under pressure to accept each rival ideology out of loyalty to the person close to her who represents it; in Oxford she is faced with the bigger challenge of making her own mind up, provoked by Azur and Peri's student friends Mona (Muslim feminist) and Shirin (secular fashion-victim). What's more, all this turns out to be happening in 2001, and people of Muslim background are under more pressure than ever to justify themselves in the eyes of westerners. Sometimes it all feels much more like a constructed example in a philosophy textbook than a novel.

There's a lot of interesting discussion in this book, but ultimately - inevitably, I suppose - it doesn't come to any clear conclusion. Şafak doesn't have an easy answer to the problems of the world in her pocket, unfortunately, so we are left with little more than an invitation to be open to debate, to stand up for our own principles, and to listen to the views of people we disagree with. Which is all very well, of course, but from Şafak's reputation as a fearless challenger of censorship and bigotry, I would have expected something a bit less tentative.

All the same, Peri is an engaging character, and there's a lot of nicely observed detail in the book. I enjoyed both the Istanbul and Oxford sections (although I did find it a bit disconcerting to hear someone being nostalgic about student days that took place a full generation after mine...!).

The audiobook narration by Alix Dunmore worked pretty well, for the most part, but I was thrown off a little by the convention she adopts that Turkish characters in the book should always speak with a conspicuous "Turkish accent", whether they are speaking Turkish or English. Obviously, it doesn't make any sense that people should have a foreign accent in their own language, and it is also rather questionable in English - people from the sort of social circles represented in this book, most of them educated abroad, would be mortified at the notion that they speak English with an accent like a carpet-seller... ( )
1 vote thorold | Sep 7, 2017 |
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"The stunning, timely new novel from the acclaimed, internationally bestselling author of The Architect's Apprentice and The Bastard of Istanbul. Peri, a married, wealthy, beautiful Turkish woman, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground -- an old polaroid of three young women and their university professor. A relic from a past -- and a love -- Peri had tried desperately to forget. Three Daughters of Eve is set over an evening in contemporary Istanbul, as Peri arrives at the party and navigates the tensions that simmer in this crossroads country between East and West, religious and secular, rich and poor. Over the course of the dinner, and amidst an opulence that is surely ill-begotten, terrorist attacks occur across the city. Competing in Peri's mind however are the memories invoked by her almost-lost polaroid, of the time years earlier when she was sent abroad for the first time, to attend Oxford University. As a young woman there, she had become friends with the charming, adventurous Shirin, a fully assimilated Iranian girl, and Mona, a devout Egyptian-American. Their arguments about Islam and feminism find focus in the charismatic but controversial Professor Azur, who teaches divinity, but in unorthodox ways. As the terrorist attacks come ever closer, Peri is moved to recall the scandal that tore them all apart. Elif Shafak is the number one bestselling novelist in her native Turkey, and her work is translated and celebrated around the world. In Three Daughters of Eve, she has given us a rich and moving story that humanizes and personalizes one of the most profound sea changes of the modern world"--… (more)

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