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10 Minutes 38 seconds in this strange world/ Elif Shafak

This novel by a well known Turkish writer begins with the end, the end of Tequila Leila who is a murdered sex worker and lies dying in a rubbish bin in Istanbul.

The opening chapter – hence the title – are devoted to her final thoughts, reminiscences, recalls in the last 10 minutes 38 seconds of her life.

It’s an intriguing idea – I did not appreciate that once her body has shut down the brain still functions. After that the book is not so intriguing.

Her five best friends Nalan the transvestite, Jameelah, Sabotage Saron, Zayrab and Humeyra are planning to dig up Leila’ s corpse from the bleak Cemetery of the Companionless for a more decent burial.

This leads to a ghoulish ending.

The book is also a graphic description of Istanbul. For this it’s worth reading alone. It’s not the Istanbul of the tourist guides but all the more insightful for that. It also covers such issues as child abuse, Islamic orthodoxy , corruption and the authoress has been prosecuted for its content.

My principal criticisms are the disconnect between the opening and what follows in tone and plot and also its not totally explained who her murderers are.

Nonetheless less I would recommend it as a good read which does not suffer from any clunky translation.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts