Honor, by Elif Shafak

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Four stars, read in September 2015.

I definitely liked this better than The Bastard of Istanbul by the same author, although I’ve been wanting to reread that one and see if I still feel the same way about it. This is a book about an “honor killing” (a phrase I use with scare quotes not because it’s not a real thing, but because it’s such a disgustingly false name to use for murdering women).

Honor was completely engrossing, except for some parts toward the end that were needlessly descriptive and a little boring. In the last third of the book the plot has really sped up, we’ve been given most of the pieces and are starting to see how they fit together, and it doesn’t make sense to spend entire lengthy paragraphs detailing the contents of a character’s cellar.

This is a book about misogyny, so for me there was no happy ending, though the plot itself resolved in a mostly satisfying way. I hated most of the main characters, basically the whole family except Esma and Yunus. That’s not fair of me, because I know perfectly well how patriarchy controls people, how you internalize those beliefs when you grow up in that system. My head doesn’t blame them for how their culture shaped them, but my gut can’t help hating them for embodying it. I do appreciate Shafak’s straightforward portrayal of it all. You never get the sense that she’s excusing or vilifying anyone; she presents patriarchy as it exists, so people who feel differently about it than I do would probably read this and have a different experience.

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