I’ve tried reading award nominated literary fiction books before but only a couple of them have felt really interesting. When I saw Elif Shafak’s book under the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker, I thought I’ll give it a try. I’ve heard really good things of her earlier book, and the blurb felt different from other literary fictions. The title too was quite intriguing.
We’ve often heard that our life flashes before our eyes in the moments before we die. Elif Shafak takes that idea and runs with it. Tequila Leila, a prostitute in Istanbul, has been killed and thrown in a dumpster, but has a few minutes before she ceases to exist. In those moments, we are taken through her life, and the character sketches of her closest friends Sabotage Sinan, Hollywood Humeyra, Nostalgia Nalan, Jamilah and Zaynab122. The second part of the novel deals with the five and their quest to honor their friend.
The first part of the book flew by quite fast I feel. In creating such different characters, each with their own story full of greys, the author managed to keep me intrigued, curious to know more about the characters and their story. How Leila associates something with each of the five friends is also beautifully written and connected. With DAli’s character, Elif also manages to make the characters (Leila, the five, even smaller characters) feel quite human when many might consider differently. And it’s a narration that seems dipped in melancholy. Another thing I loved was the depth of the relationship between the six friends, diverse as they are. It was brilliant to read. The second part of the book, while interesting, was slower than the first. But added a lot of merit to the strength of the friendship between the six.
The novel also explores the political scenes of Istanbul to an extent, though that wasn’t something I was even remotely interested in. I can understand why this was shortlisted for the prize but I didn’t think it would have won either. I might reread the book, and I quite enjoyed the read.
Title: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Literary Fiction
No. of Pages: 320
Rating: 9 out of 10