Book Review: Honor

Continuing on my Elif Shafak book obsession, I started her book Honor.

Not a crowd favorite as not many people read it or were able to recommend it to me. I even got some people telling me that they stopped reading it 😀 To be honest, I read a page 2 or 3 weeks ago and the book was not calling me, so I left it behind. But last week, I was staring at the cover too intently and just picked it up and read it in 2 days.

Shit happens as they say 😀


Internationally bestselling Turkish author Elif Shafak’s new novel is a dramatic tale of families, love, and misunderstandings that follows the destinies of twin sisters born in a Kurdish village. While Jamila stays to become a midwife, Pembe follows her Turkish husband, Adem, to London, where they hope to make new lives for themselves and their children.

In London, they face a choice: stay loyal to the old traditions or try their best to fit in. After Adem abandons his family, Iskender, the eldest son, must step in and become the one who will not let any shame come to the family name. And when Pembe begins a chaste affair with a man named Elias, Iskender will discover that you could love someone with all your heart and yet be ready to hurt them.

Just published to great acclaim in England, Honor is a powerful, gripping exploration of guilt and innocence, loyalty and betrayal, and the trials of the immigrant, as well as the love and heartbreak that too often tear families apart. 

My opinion

It was truly a great read. I felt myself being teleported in this Turkish village being a silent watcher of the life of these beautiful and different twins.

This story follows the destiny of two sisters, as well as the protagonists that played a role in their life, in the past and future. Its a fiction novel that details the honor killings in the Muslim culture as well as the subject of children of immigration and the Turkish/Kurdish culture. The story begins with the main event and we are going back in time trying to understand how all planets aligned for this event to happen. Iskender Toprak a 16 years old boy, stabbed his mother, Pembe Toprak, to death in Hackney in an act of honor killing in front of his family home on Lavender Grove. The book starts with a bang right 😀

This fictional novel addresses honor crimes that happen within communities and families where the woman is always the one in charge of protecting the family name and its reputation. Its her duty to make sure that nothing will taint the family even if it means to forego her own desires and life plans. Elif Shafak addressed this burden that women have in an interesting manner and through the eyes of all the members of the family. We see it via her daughter, protecting her mom’s right to life, the sons and the influence that the men around them had on their judgement and on the situation. As well as the nasty impact of rumors and gossip in the neighborhood and within families.

It Is Absurd To Blame The West For Muslim "Honor" Crimes - The Jewish Press  - | Bennett Ruda | 17 Elul 5779 – September 17, 2019 |

In some chapters and sections of the book, I found myself pissed off and even annoyed at the behavior of some characters. My bookclub can attest to that 😀 I got mad at some of the speeches that they had as well as the omnipresent will to own the woman and her spirit.

True to her craft and art, Elif Shafak masters the fucking timeline and storytelling. I mean this lady is good at her shit! She is telling a story from 3 different generations point of vue and in multiple time zones and countries . In one chapter you are in the 2000s era and the next chapter we are catapulted in the 1970s and in another country as the story is between Turkey and the UK and through different ethnicities: Kurdish, Turkish and British.

Honor balances in a brilliant manner cultural influences, identity crisis, political and society expectations as well as internal dilemmas without it being too pushy on the reader. There is a definite spiritual side to the book but its so well embed in the book that it is not aggressive nor disturbing. She is always throwing some easter eggs and twists here and there and we are kept in a constant state of « what happens next? » , « why did he do that? », « what was he thinking? »

I love how throughout the book, we are gradually forming the image and understanding how it all went down without it feeling like a crime to solve. It’s like Elif wanted to understand that behind the act there is remorse, a history and more to it than a simple headline in a newspaper and a society condemnation of a young boy who was also a victim.

You have loss, grief, betrayal, love, loyalty, family.. a perfect balance of the good and the bad! Honor is written in a way that makes you want to shake some sense into people and question if open communication and respect of the right to live and enjoy life is not something everybody should focus on and strive to accomplish instead of nasty gossips and destroying people lives.

All in all a great book, shed a tear even at the end and didn’t want it to end. And my favorite character remains Jamila, from the beginning 😀