10 Minutes and 38 Seconds
in this Strange World
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BY ELIF SHAFAK
Set in Turkey, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World is a remarkable and infectious story which is beautifully written and sure to bring a lump to your throat. Short-listed for Booker Prize 2019, with the paperback out in June 2020, expect to be literally turned upside down in this haunting and imaginative novel.
Tequila Leila is dead, a prostitute murdered and left in a waste container on the outskirts of Istanbul. There is a period of 10 minutes 38 seconds before her brain cells shut down when her mind recalls key moments from her life. She leaves behind five special friends – also outcasts in society and her first thought is of them and the brilliant, colourful funeral they will give her. The grief-stricken friends in turn are determined to rescue their brilliant friend from having an unnamed burial in the Cemetery of the Companionless out of town. Their determination and love binds these unique individuals together as they break down barriers and beat the system to give Leila the end she deserves and should be entitled to.
There are so many dimensions to this book beginning with the suffering and silencing of women within a patriarchal society, the exploitation of sexual workers, gender equality, the attempt to suppress student activists and the corrupt hierarchy of the wealthy.
Although it is a dark and brutal book, it also has such humanity and the end is wonderfully told and beautifully moving. We were blown away in the Den. For some it was too disturbing, too weird, sometimes surreal but all agreed on it's creative flair and imagination. Leila is a wonderful character, and her unassuming nature means she is likeable because despite having no proper education she is clearly intelligent and interested in life beyond her village and her claustrophobic family.
Sadly, Elif Shafak feels she is unable to travel back to Turkey for fear she may be arrested. This makes reading this book even more important bringing these issues to the forefront. She is giving a voice to those in society without one. Den recommendation - follow Elif Shafak on twitter for her insightful and thought provoking tweets.
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