Book review: 10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world

I bought this book as the cover and title were intriguing to me. I also got it as I just discovered this author from her book « The 40 rules of love » and I was hooked on her writing and style. I ordered all her books xD


‘In the first minute following her death, Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’
Our brains stay active for ten minutes after our heart stops beating. For Leila, each minute brings with it a new memory: growing up with her father and his wives in a grand old house in a quiet Turkish town; watching the women gossip and wax their legs while the men went to mosque; sneaking cigarettes and Western magazines on her way home from school; running away to Istanbul to escape an unwelcome marriage; falling in love with a student who seeks shelter from a riot in the brothel where she works. Most importantly, each memory reminds Leila of the five friends she met along the way – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

My opinion

Fucking loved this book and the story. I read it on a go and was hooked from the first page.

I love how the author directly put us in the midst of the situation: A prostitute, Tequila Leila, was killed, her body dumped in a trash bin and we follow her last 10 minutes and 38 seconds in this earth. And especially her memories, from her birth, childhood to her death. A real cycle of life.

The rhythm of the book and the timeline were controlled and showed a certain mastery in the art of writing. We go from chapter to chapter with a certain ease and we never get lost in the story. I love how she wrote 10 chapters, one for each of the minutes of Leila’s life.

It’s amazing to see how Elif Shafak covered the powerful themes of Women’s rights, political stifling, religion, identity, LGBTQ, brothels and family honor in Turkey. She also addresses children in complex family systems with multiple wives and family expectations and religious/tribal/traditional influence. These are touchy subjects but she addressed them with such a just and correct manner that we appreciate these information throughout the story. Her crafting is very unique!

10 minutes and 38 seconds is a book with such detailed description that it transported me to Istanbul and to my last trip there. I could see the beauty of the streets and smell the good food and see the beauty of the land and of people.

The introduction of the five friends of Leila and their respective back stories are done in a very smart and natural manner. Their impact in her life and role are introduced gradually and help us draw the picture on the life of Tequila Leila. From her childhood to this fatal moment. it is undeniable that the author is a master in storytelling! The book is an ode to the beauty of friendship and gives a voice to the people in Istanbul and Turkey that we do not see often in TV or in the front scene. The author shed a light on the good and bad in brothels, families, friendships, traditions… We relate easily to the pain and happiness in the life of each of these 5 people and cant help but feel sad for their lives.

I didn’t know about the « Cemetery of the Companionless », and reading this part made me feel so sad and gave me chills. I even googled it and saw that it was very real and that the story included in this book are inspired from true stories. It is heartbreaking…

I loved that the first chapter’s title is called « The end ». Quite intriguing and a literary mindfuck 😀 And the ending is so powerful and amazing! This book stays with you for a long time after turning the last page!

Seriously, I loved this book and cant wait to read the rest of this Elif Shafak work! I advice you to read it as you will not regret it!

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